A Joke In My Town: Guns, 911 & the Point of an Apology

During the car ride of pure silence, with my mouth literally hanging open and tears hanging at the cliffs of my eye lashes, I remember thinking ‘I just wrote that it’s ok to be in the hood.’ Right then, I felt like I had been tied to a post and was being beaten with embarrassment’s fist, along with tons of other emotional heavyweights. Let’s go back . .  .

A couple of days ago, I went to meet my sister for lunch. She had a short trip in the city and was on her way back to Atlanta on this particular day, so we decided to meet up for brunch. Since she was dropping her daughter off at a church nearby where I live, I told her I would meet her at my house. With Nicki Minaj’s “Looking Ass Nigga” on near volume max (and repeat), I hit the highway in a festive mood, feeling and looking like great. Setting the emotional tone is important. I was hype and happy when I slowed to the red light just off the highway. Everything happened so quickly. As I turned onto my street, I saw my sister’s car pulling up to the stop sign. I figured my niece must have forgotten something or that she needed to go to the gas station. I could tell as I waited to turn onto my street that she was on the phone. She flagged me down with her arm hanging out the window and I pulled up right next to her, turning the music down. Before she could say anything, there was a car turning onto the street behind me so I had to pull off because we were blocking the street entirely. I drove to the corner and pulled up in front of my house before deciding I needed to run to the gas station and might as well drive. I pulled up into a space in front of the door after noticing my sister’s car parked away from the pumps and off to the side. Still oblivious to all things, I turned my music down and was slowly grabbing up my purse and covering my laptop. I turned to open the door and she was right there, shaking and almost in tears.

“Some guy just pulled a gun out on me”, she said as my brain scrambled to process what I had just heard. She further explained that she had simply parked and started messing with her phone when she noticed an issue arising.

Let’s back up some more. She got there before I did and had driven to the end of the street to make the u-turn. Once she turned around and parked, she noticed someone in a car that had pulled up very close behind her and seemed to be ‘poppin off’ at her. She thought maybe he wanted the parking space so she pulled up more. Next thing she knew, the guy was outside of his car, cussing and hollering and showing his gun…AT HER! Mind you, her windows are tinted dark so you can’t see inside her car very much and she has Georgia plates, so I was just as confused when she told me as she was when it was happening. Who would have a problem with her and why? Was it me? Had I done something and it was now spilling out on her? Instantly terrified, she sped off and up the street to get away just as I turned onto it.

Now here is where things go even more left field.

She had already called the police, which is why she was on the phone when I turned onto the street. When you think your life is in danger, that’s what you do right? Call the police? I don’t know. To be black in America, I can say for certain I don’t know what you’re supposed to do. It could turn out against YOU!  That is a REAL and legitimate Black In America fear. Who would want that on their conscious?

We stood at the gas station and she expressed her concern for going back on my street and talking to the police especially because I live there and she didn’t want to exacerbate the situation. Keep in mind we had no idea why this man pulled his gun out and was snapping on her or who he even was. I didn’t recognize the car description and had no idea of what to do. We were both pretty scared, to say the least.  I saw my neighbor walking his dog and I went into auto-pilot. I was standing there in heels and a bouncy dress that I bought in the Bahamas and some fancy footwear that I got from NYC; I needed to change into war gear and investigation shoes. I told my sister to stay at the station and I was going to ask my neighbor if he saw anything and change my clothes. Remember: the police have already been called at this point. We see a cop drive up the street. I got back in my truck, drove home and pulled up just as my neighbor was stepping onto his porch. I stopped him and ask him if he saw anything or was familiar with the car she described. He said no and I walked off, nervous and wondering why someone would do this and what should I do. I can’t have my sister scared to visit me- that’s my fucking sister. NO!

AND, it’s broad effin daylight on a weekday!!! WTF?

The police drove past two more times while I stood there and on their third rotation, I stood in the street with my arms stretched with the best WTF look that I could plaster across my face. He stopped just as he passed me, opened his door and asked did I call the police. I told him verbatim “no, but my sister did. She’s scared to come back on the street and she is over at the gas station”, and proceeded to describe her car. He said ok, got back in his car and drove off. Assuming he was heading over to her, I ran in the house and changed clothes, let the dogs out real quick and quick-footed it back outside. I was at her car in less than ten minutes. When I got to her passenger door to open it, a voice rang out from across the parking lot “Hey Kendra, tell her I’m sorry.”

I stood there perplexed as fuck and he said, “I wouldn’t have done that, I thought she was someone else. I’m sorry.”

Finally words came to my lips: “That was you!!???”

He said, “Yeah, tell her I’m sorry.” 

I nodded and got in the car to find my sister staring at me with the WTF face I had given the police and I’m not sure what face I gave her back. I regurgitated his words as best as I could and included the fact that I knew him. Seconds passed and we pulled off and up MLK BlVD, not really sure what to say or feel. Well, at least we knew it was over and nothing else would come of it? Was she safe to come back on my street? Was she traumatized? Was I angry? Scared? I had so many feelings fighting for top attention that I physically could not speak. I felt like crying. Straight up, I felt like bursting into complete tears but then she would console me and this was soooo not about me right now. Again, I had so many emotions. When she apologized for calling the cops and cried as we crossed 16th Street, I felt like the words were pushing to get out but there was no connection with my voice. It might seem dramatic, but I promise, we were both stunned into silence. Her apology broke that silence and I returned it with nothingness although inside of me, I screamed to her that she did nothing wrong.  What is life when you apologize for calling the police because your life feels threatened? But again, when you’re Black in America, that can result in lives lost and IMPD is no exception.

That right there is some complicated, unfair shit.

We pulled over and parked on the outskirts of the IUPUI lot across from Crispus Attucks. We sat there, my sister still shaken and really not up for driving, and me in silence with my mind on a thousand speed. I suggested we pray. It was the best, safest place I could think to go. I didn’t feel emotionally equipped to know what to say to make her feel ok. I felt bad for knowing the guy and even worse because I had to deliver his apology. When I spoke it, it felt like the first cigarette after a long day on a new addict’s tongue; there was a sense of relief and sadness. As we sat there in this parking lot, I was able to find my words and tell my sister not to apologize for being scared or for calling the police. I reminded her that that’s what is supposed to happen. That in the heat of the moment of straight fear, you’re not always (if ever) going to think about how Black Lives (don’t really) Matter while in search of help. We are supposed to be able to call the police. They are supposed to be trained to help us, especially in these situations.

EVEN.IF.WE.ARE.BLACK.

EVEN.IF.WE.LIVE.IN.THE.HOOD.

As the ice was broken and we were able to calm and collect ourselves and find some peace in it all, a group of three people walked in front of the car on the way back to work at Attucks; one white man in a suit and two black women. One woman walked a bit ahead of the two others and as the white man and black woman trailed, we both noticed the woman’s cute heels. They were Lucite-block style 3′ or 4′ inch sandals with triple straps, but not over the top. She had on a cute red dress that didn’t hug or hide her figure. Her hair was natural and we both noted that she was STRUTTING in those heels. She walked so confidently in who she was that I’d dare someone try to convince me she ever shed a tear. Black women, I tell you. We are beautiful. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to roll down the window and shout “YOU BETTA WERK BLACK QUEEN!!!!”

She raised her hands and smiled a thank you. It was like the clouds broke and the sun came through. I don’t know what significance that was, but I had to share it. We set forth on our journey to food (tried to get some Trap food but she ran out #Splat #NextTimeGadget), picked up my niece and made the rest of our time beautiful. At least two and a half hours passed by before we went back to my house, feeling at ease and safe to pull up.

Life comes at you fast man . . .

As I got out of her car, the young man that I knew (yes, the young man that had the gun out) was walking up to my neighbor’s house (yes, the same neighbor who I had stopped earlier). It was spooky AF. I’m not even trying to tie anything together because I know it was all mere coincidence, but the irony wasn’t lost on me. He had clearly seen us pulling up because as soon as I stood outside the car door (my sister and niece still in the car), he began apologizing again. Like I said, this guy is no stranger to me. I don’t ‘fear’ him. I know him well and have always thought he was a good kid. He lives around here but I’ve known him prior to moving over here. We speak every time we see each other. I ask about his children. It’s easy to say I’m disappointed in the situation as a whole, but it’s a greater thing to appreciate the fact that from the most sincere place he could foster it from, he was offering an apology. That’s not something that can be ignored in this society. That situation could have gone horribly wrong. One of the thoughts that ran through my mind was wondering how many people have lost their lives as a case of mistaken identity. I’ve always heard that if you’re going to pull your gun you better be prepared to shoot, so in his preparation, that whole scenario could have been an unnecessary disaster. His apology simply can’t fall on deaf ears and you know why? Because if it does, it teaches him (people) that remorse is not appreciated and therefore not necessary. In the arrogance of the today’s society, someone owning up and saying they made a fucked up mistake and apologizing is something that has to be noted. It doesn’t erase anything, but it one isn’t sorry for an offense, then they are liable to do it again. In the end, we all found a place to share a smile as we went in our respective different directions. It was the best possible ending to an unlikely, fucked up situation that shouldn’t have happened, but did.

And that’s that piece. . .

Or is it? 

Before I end this blog, let me address the real yellow elephant with the mouth full of peanuts. My sister called IMPD, against her better judgment and inner black woman voice. She felt threatened and scared and she told the 911 operator that she was “terrified”. I know she was scared because when she was standing at my door in tears, she was shaking. When a car drove up alongside us while we were parked, she jumped. She did the right thing, per the way our society is supposed to behave. She called 911 and even left them her number to contact her back, per the operator’s request. My interaction with the officer was bare minimal. Remember, I directed him straight to my sister with a description of her car. That was the end all of our conversation.

That officer and no other one ever went to my sister’s car. They did absolutely nothing and I’m going to be honest by saying I don’t know what they could have done given the situation. They didn’t know who it was and neither did we.  The car was nowhere in sight from what I could tell. But to refrain from going and talking to the person that called, regardless of what you can or can’t do to help, is a sign of weak ass policing, a true lack of concern for local citizens and possibly some area-stereotyping. Here’s a little more irony: approximately seven days prior to this, members of IMPD were all gathered and standing with Rev. Harris, the Ten Point Coalition and the news cameras in this exact same area at the old Double 8, which also doubles as the ten point central location. It’s where I see them standing almost daily when I come home from work. I won’t pretend to know what that meet and greet was for but I’m sure it had something to do with this bullshit campaign Rev. Harris and IMPD are serving the public by suggesting they are responsible for lowering crime in certain areas, this one in particular.

You know what I did not see the entire time this situation played out with my sister? A fluorescent green vest! Twenty-four hours later, I saw them at the same Double 8 parking lot, standing and congregating.

You see, I’m calling bullshit on the biggest bullhorn I can find. It is a slap in my face and it is disrespectful to the community members that live in this area and live with the crime and fears to play on our intelligence in the name of receiving grant and state funding to live the good life. I’m appalled that a man who oversees a church, where people go to serve the Lord, could so smugly be ok with lying to the public and his own black people. Many people have called bullshit, but I actually live here and we’re no stranger to the fact that I grew up in (and mother lives in) the heart of Butler Tarkington. I’m not just talking about what I heard, it’s what I know. I can’t blame the Reverand or IMPD or ten point for the actions of another person and I don’t. But when I see them marching up the street with Channel 6 or whoever is the first to hit record, and I see them standing on the corner every day at 5 o’clock, but when something really pops off I don’t see not one through eleven fucks given by either the ten point coalition or the police, it really pisses me the fuck off. I know that was a long sentence and this blog is full of expletives, but man…these are actual feelings being placed into words. The lackadaisical attitude of the IMPD officers, particularly the one I spoke with (my goofy ass didn’t get his name and badge) has damaging results whereas trust, which was already minuscule at best, is concerned. The convenient broadcasts of the ten point dangerous area-field trips with news crews and Mike Pence are laden with irony to their lack of visibility on this day. Let me guess, they can’t be everywhere all the time. Yep. I know.  I don’t like myself, my neighbors or community being used as experimental zoo pets in an effort to gain more funds to misuse. The Reverand and IMPD owe this community an apology for misrepresenting themselves.  They should take some humility lessons from the guy that pulled the gun out.

This broad daylight, weekday situation had to de-escalate itself, which then makes me wonder how many other situations have found their own resolution. I’ve heard shooting, arguing in the middle of the night between men and women, disrupting and disrespecting the entire neighborhood and have yet to see a fluorescent vest come through and offer any positive assistance. Or any assistance period. I watch as the police park at the old Double 8 day in and out and watch the gas station for trouble. There is also a press conference held at that very Double 8 parking lot between IMPD, Rev. Harris & the coalition and whoever they invite at least once every few months, complete with bullhorns, microphones, AND BODYGUARDS (I can’t make this up…I’ve witnessed it), so there seems to be a lot of time on folks hands, yet a woman fears for her life in broad daylight and can’t find a bullhorn, a vest, a bodyguard or a fucking police officer that gives a fuck.

I am all out of wows.

I have so many questions, but none that will ever be answered. This shit will continue on as it has. Honestly, I feel some type of way about feeling some type of way towards IMPD. I know they aren’t to be trusted. I know they don’t give a fuck. They’ve shown it and I have no faith in police departments in general. The last time I was pulled over by a police officer, I turned my video on before he got to my window. I don’t trust them. So why should I expect them to care? Why should I be mad at what I could have predicted? Why do I feel some type of relief that they didn’t do anything because this IS the same neighborhood they killed Aaron Bailey in and yet they can’t seem to come clean and admit that was a fucked up situation and an officer deserves to swap his citizen job for an inmate gig.

As my sis Rheagan Gilmore would say, “TUH!”  What faith did I even have in them to be broken?

Am I just shitty because they have proven what I had assumed? That it’s best to not even call. At least that way, no one gets killed by the police because of a call you placed, and you don’t run the risk of being disappointed in how much they don’t care. That officer looked me right in my face and said ok like he was about to go be Johnny on the Spot. Instead, he went back to his slop container, where Rev Harris has cooked up a nice meal of bullshit. Eat up. Tip accordingly.

Oh,

Before I go….so what do we do in case of an emergency??? Who do we call?

This is a question I fear I will never have a sufficient answer for.

Thanks for reading.

~j

4620W8T – #Pause: My Hood Is DOPE: #HighlighterPen #ItsRainingPens

Recently, I sat on the back patio of my home, enjoying the sunshine and watching the butterfly that kept landing on the banister. My male dog tossed and turned in a dirt pit he dug for himself and his toys while my female rested her head sleepily against my leg. It was a typically quiet and serene moment at a place I call (t)HugzMansion.

My house rests in an area that has its fair offering of boarded-up houses and vacant lots. From my backyard and because of a vacant lot, I can see straight through to the one-way street one block over. It’s a busy westbound street and I watched as traffic sped by on their way to important destinations. A collection of sounds christened the air that ranged from loud trunk music to kids playing and ultimately my personal favorite, stillness. There is no shortage of trees in the back and I took special notice to the fresh spring buds sitting on high limbs that reached for the sky’s approval. Several trees were covered in purple buds that looked like a high field of lavender from where I sat. It was (and is) quite beautiful.  As I sat, Cinematic Orchestra’s “Woman: Burnout” played us an evening soundtrack.  It was a solid warm, peaceful spring day full of the kind of sunshine that tickled the tips of the growing grass and kissed my melanin ever so gently.

I had no complaints.

According to a 2013 Fox59 report, the 46208 zip code is not only one of the most dangerous zips in Indianapolis; it is ranked as one of the most dangerous in the entire country. In this zip code, along with 46205, a person has a one in fourteen chance of becoming a victim of a homicide. While the report itself goes on to mention certain areas within these zips, or pockets, the zip code itself is used as a blanket statement for an entire area covered under those ten specific numbers. Butler-Tarkington, which is not mentioned in the 2013 article but makes up a huge portion of 46208, was featured in the news in October 2016 for making it one year without violence after a string of unsolved murders left families broken and police stumped. It’s also been listed as a high crime, dangerous areas. The MLK and Riverside areas have also been known to fall under the title of danger zones. Both areas have endured a long notoriety with locals as being oppressively unstable and full of crime. I am not writing this blog to deny the existence of the all too frequent violence. In fact, I can easily understand how one comes to label these areas as they do. Who can forget 10-year-old Deshaun Lee Swanson, who was shot and killed during a drive-by that injured several others? That happened around the corner from my mother’s house and next door to the parents of a lifelong sisterfriend. My stepfather was supposed to be in that house that day but decided to stay home. Trust me when I say I am awake, alert and aware of the violence and negativity that go on in these places.

But doesn’t the label of “most-dangerous” at least somewhat eradicate the presence of the love that I happen to know exists in these areas? Does no one else feel marked and thrown away under such a label, or is it just me and my feelings?

Consider this: the label of “most dangerous zip code in the country” (or even the city) doesn’t identify the isolated pockets where the violence is most prominent. One would have to read between the lines to get that. Instead, that lable engulfs and speaks for the entire covered area while conveniently forgetting that despite what you see from the outside looking in, there are still families here. There are still people with goals and dreams, folks who are mentoring the teens and kids that live in these very areas. There are small, grassroots collections of people trying to combat the violence AND all the other issues plaguing our communities (food, transportation, health, etc).

I grew up in the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood. I have lived all over Indianapolis but I returned to the area in 2007 and spent the last ten years in the 46208 neighborhood. I can say with certainty and experience that there is so much beautiful to be seen and experienced in the hood. Last year, I tried to apply for a job with the INRC, a community-based organization that targets urban areas with the intention of building neighborhood awareness, communication and dialogue, as well as empowering the community to teach, grow and sustain itself through their own initiatives and talents. They use what is referred to as the ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) model to achieve this success. When using the ABCD model, you assess what are considered to be “weaknesses” and work on how to utilize them as strengths. In other words, there are no weaknesses. A person may not like to speak in public, but on the flip side, they are great listeners. That person could record information for someone. There are no vacant homes: those are potential artistic canvases OR rehabilitated meeting houses or safe places. Using the talents and gifts of the people within these areas, coupled with identifying ‘troubled’ areas (regarding buildings AND the people), and then learning how to turn those into assets is how you revitalize a community from the inside out…without gentrifying it.

But in order to respect that there is talent in these so-called urban, dangerous areas, there must be belief. There must be hope. Despite what is said about us, life still exists within our numbered boundaries.

Who knew??? Life exists in “the most dangerous zip codes” of Indianapolis!!!! 

Indystar isn’t really good about reporting that though. The media is great for being first on the scene to capture people screaming and hollering in grief and disbelief when a dead body is discovered. They are Johnny on the Spot when a drug bust happens, even if they don’t have much information. But when over three hundred people draw together, along with the police (by happenstance), on a corner where folks are scared to make a complete stop at the four-way, no one is there but our own cell cameras. Then when two thousand people gather together in an event that could rival all of the summer expos and food festivals, but this one being held in a neighborhood that falls under the national label of danger, the only stories that are written are the ones we write for ourselves. Remember that person that doesn’t like to speak in public but is a good listener? He/She would fit well here to help create stories that live long after we do. OUR STORIES MUST BE TOLD. I am now part of a neighborhood organization called The Learning Tree where doing just that is a top priority.

My point of all of this not a list of suggestions of what we could do….but rather an ode to what we are doing. There is great work going on in the areas that many people are afraid of based on what they’ve heard. I spoke about my neighborhood to a coworker the other day with pride, not embarrassment or shame. As I heard myself, I couldn’t help but notice the second nature of which I bragged on the incredible initiatives in my area. The block I recently moved to is a very busy block. The street cramped with cars on both sides and the people hang out late at night with loud conversations. There are vacant homes on both sides of the street. My grandfather used to own one of them. Matter a fact, it’s the biggest one of the block – the biggest house and the biggest vacant. When I walk out of my door, I am not inundated with the negative. I see duplexes with bikes on porches and older men who frequent their stoops on a regular. There is a daycare in operation right next door to me. I hear kids crying as they get dropped off in the morning and laughing outside as I pull up in the evening.

I’ve often told people when I moved to 34th and Clifton (The Cliff), I was nervous as shit. I feared that I was making a mistake that would cost me my safety and/or peace of mind. I couldn’t have been further from reality. In the three years I stayed there, while some weird things definitely came about like the police repeatedly visiting and looking for someone who didn’t live there, or a random man knocking at my door at like 3 AM (I didn’t answer), it was a wonderful experience overall. There was a neighborhood street clean up the first year I was there. The second year led me to meet Mr. William Ryder, the artist whose home was a museum of his own incredible sculptures. He also told me how his father used to dress him up as a girl when he lived in or near Lyles Station, IN, where county officials were kidnapping black children to do radiation experiments on them. From what Mr. Ryder told me, they preferred boys hence his parents dressing him as a girl. I wouldn’t have met him, toured his home or looked into his beautiful eyes and saw all the ancestry they held with artistic pride had I been living in the safety nets of some place like Normandy Farms (traders point).

There is a gas station nearby my house that I see police presence and arrests nearly every day. Just last week, I watched a cop sit behind the Double 8 building and watch the station activities from his car using binoculars. I admit, there is a lot that goes on there and I personally try not to use it too much but I can’t be too surprised. After all, this IS one of the most dangerous places in the entire country.

 People drive through here daily. I wonder if, when driving, anyone notices the precious gems that those of us who live here see? Such as the teddy bear memorial that I believe grows by the week from where two men lost their lives after a driver jumped the curb, striking and ultimately killing both men as they awaited the bus. It’s old news but the neighborhood hasn’t forgotten them. Do people only see what they believe are bums and addicts or do they notice the mothers walking down the street holding hands with their children too? Those are real people. Have they seen the garden preparation at the Flanner House that will provide freshly grown food to area residents in addition to offering gardening classes. Do people see all the kids that wait for the after-school food program that GRoe Inc. provides? Or is that too inner in the inner city? Kheprw has a great community food program for a low monthly cost. Neighborhood and community building is happening right before our eyes…and right above the labels.

Let the news tell it, the only saving grace in these areas is the 10-Point Coalition, spearheaded by a man whose affinity for profiling, stop and frisk and disparaging remarks about black youth keep him locked out from making any real impact on the people. Photo ops and a ‘walk thru’ or two with the Mayor are dope tho.

The link I provided in regards to the Butler-Tarkington area going a year without violence starts with a video of the news crew walking up 40th street with the 10 Point guys. The media seems impressed but those of us who live over here don’t see them until we turn on the tv or see the news crew outside. We are NOT impressed. Less reported are the grassroots efforts of the RESIDENTS. The people who live here when the camera crews pack up and go back to Noblesville and Carmel. Folks like these fathers who came together to not only work the streets of Butler Tarkington at night time in attempts to curb the violence, but they are attending community meetings and letting their voices (our voices) be heard. These are fathers and husbands who, through their own finances, offer children in the neighborhood options for the summer (football little league) and someone trusted to confide in.

A couple of weeks back, on the MLK side of 46208, I along with my partner, catered a “living room concert series”, where locals gathered together in a neighborhood living room for a concert-style dinner, entertainment and conversation. This event included area neighbors as well as people from the community that have the pull, the pockets and the DESIRE to invest in our areas. No animals were harmed and no gunshots rang out in the process. Lives were not lost; in fact, they were inspired and uplifted. The living room concert featured a live band and singer with me serving as the host and poet. A bit of community dialogue followed the music where questions were asked and input from those of us who live here was shared.

All of this in one of the most dangerous zip codes of Indianapolis and the entire country.

THE POINT:

Meet Indy’s New Fountain Square

There is no question that violence, drugs, and police runs in these communities are frequent occurences. I am by no means attempting to dismiss the importance of curbing the statistics over here. But there are great things happening in the 46208 areas and it’s not coming by way of gentrification. It’s coming at the hands of the community residents that either stay here or travel over here to help rebuild the people. That’s the difference between gentrification and community rebuilding: In the gentrifying model, homes and land are bought and remodeled to look pretty. The rustic browns and tans of hood life are replaced with friendly hues from the pastel color wheel. Pink, blue and yellow siding line up the newly constructed homes or the ‘rehabbed’ places as the old neighbors are pushed out and new ones are brought in. Coffee shops pop up and white people start jogging with babies and strollers and the next thing you know, what was once a predominantly black area is now the new hipster area. *See Fall Creek Boulevard. Fountain Square didn’t become the revitalized artistic gem that it is now without pushing a shitload of people out and rewriting the story without them in it.

“30’000 feet up and you are not invited” ~Kanye West

But in the community building model, we fix the PEOPLE first and then assess what needs to be done regarding the homes, buildings, and land. The people are not pushed out; they are empowered. You can’t empower a building but you can its people. And that is happening all over urban areas with little to no coverage from local news outlets or stations. If it wasn’t for these blogs and articles that we write, we would only believe that these dangerous zip codes are places where you only drive through if necessary and you never move to on purpose.

I moved here on purpose, even with a fistful of fear I had collected by what I had heard. That fear was quickly eradicated and with the help of people like Earl & Ro Townsend, who started the GRoe Inc organization, it became easier to see how to be an asset instead of a complainer. I didn’t get the job at INRC but I’ve learned and am still learning how to apply the ABCD model to my community. Right now, if you look at my big yellow house, you may notice one of the blinds is a jumbled up mess. It is ridiculously ugly.

It’s been torn, shredded and manipulated to fit dog needs. I honestly don’t know what they did to get the blinds like they have but we have failed to replace them as of yet and it’s been a month or so.

You can see straight through on the bottom portion. I must say, it’s time to replace them. If a person was to judge my home based on my blinds, they would expect to walk into a dust-filled, grease motel with floors full of stuff you don’t want to step or stand on, the stench of dog piss and two couches that don’t match in one room. That’s far from the case. It’s typically clean in here although there are times when we get lazy. There is no shortage of furniture but it still has a very minimalist vibe as there are no televisions downstairs and nothing but the dinner table in the dining room. If you started from the inside first, you wouldn’t expect to see those blinds. In a sense, I guess I own the most dangerous blinds in the local area…and maybe even the United States.

Much like my blinds, the inner city has a stigma attached to it that comes with lowered expectations and stereotypical assumptions. Many people will stop at the stigma and never venture inward to learn otherwise. But if you dare step inside for a bit, you won’t last five minutes without learning that love lives here; daily. You will meet artists of varying mediums – string players, harpists, singers, and musicians. Painters and sketch artists, writers and photographers. There are places to learn how to garden, do yoga and work on clean eating. Yes, we live in a food desert with no standing bank. Yes, there is violence around us and an overwhelming police presence despite our lack of trust in them. But there is always laughter on our blocks. There are smiles and children with their bikes turned upside while they spin the tires with their hands. There are lavender buds on the tree limbs out back and the sun still kisses our flowers with precision. We have as much silence as a Carmel, Indiana subdivision and in the morning, the chirping birds don’t hesitate to sing to us. We are business owners. Working people. Retirees and school kids. Parents and elderly people with stories in their pockets. We are a community of people. We are more than a zip code and it’s label.

When I see or hear stuff like ‘I wish black folks would come together’, I can’t help but shake my head in immediate irritation (while wondering where the people who are quick to say this actually live). Clearly, they took the media bait and they believe there is little over here beyond the violence and heartbreak.

In reality, there is a great deal of good that goes on and I guess this is one of those instances where you just have to live it to know it. Or at least be a frequent visitor. The outside looking in often leads to a front row seat to ignorance.

From my front row seat, I get to see butterflies land right in front of me. That same butterfly landed on me before flying off again. #BeFearless

Nestled under the cold blanket of a harsh label, there are human beings trying to do and striving for the best…for themselves AND for their community.

Welcome to one of the most dangerous zip codes in America.

~j

 

The Great Black (h)Ope: After the Ball Ends.

Back in the day, I had a strong dislike for Oprah. In fact, I wished she would go away. I wished my aunt and grandmother’s televisions would stop tuning into her 4 o’clock judgmental shenanigans. My grandmother knew Oprah’s father personally and he had visited her a few times over my youth. When I first started doing poetry, my grandmother used to talk about how to get me on Oprah’s show using her (my gmom’s) connects. I used to think to myself “well that won’t work because I don’t like Oprah and she doesn’t like her father” so…eh. To the contrary, I wanted to like her. After all, she was a rich, black woman on my television with the top-rated daytime talk show. I could identify with her in so many ways so the fact that I didn’t like her was a bit troubling to my spirit but I went with it because I was passionate about what I felt.

My reasoning:

Hip Hop.

She didn’t like it.
Therefore, I didn’t like her.
She, along with many others at the time, was totally against the very music that was providing the soundtrack to my youth. Those same songs she owned so much disdain for, were the songs I was turning up in my bedroom, dancing around and pretending there was an audience watching. How dare she disrespect music of all things??!!!! Sure the language was misogynistic and the stories were often sordid drug tales gone badly, but but but –

-but why couldn’t she still love it?

I mean, I did.

Admittedly, I was young and full of dumb. I loved what I heard on and off the radio. NWA were Niggaz with Attitudes, not disrespectful men. They were simply a group of friends who were infuriated by the climate of our society, and they just so happened to know several ‘hoes’ that were worth remembering on wax. If I, as a young girl/woman, could still like what I heard, why couldn’t Oprah? Ironically enough, I cringed often at the lyrics I was singing and dancing along to like:

“….next time I’m feeling kinda horny/you can come on over, and I’ll break you off/And if you can’t **** that day baby/Just lay back, and open your mouth”
~Nate Dogg, It Ain’t No Fun

Funny how I could mentally tense up at some of the lyrics I heard, but still not understand what bothered Oprah so much about the same music. How dare she ask our men to respect us in and outside of music? Her passion behind not wanting to turn on the radio and be called a bitch and not allowing young girls, like myself, to be manipulated via music into believing that bitch and hoe and niggas were terms of endearment and sex should be shared among friends, upset me because I felt she was against “us” rather than for us. I sided with the rappers and would often hear myself say ‘if you not a bitch, he ain’t talking about you.’ :/ How dare she go against hip-hop instead of head nodding and body gyrating?

Who was she to tell these people how to tell their stories? Again, that is a young way of thinking and had I continued with my strong disdain for her, she would have never been able to inspire me.  You see, around these same years, my creative side was finding a growing desire to do something with and for women. I just didn’t know how to start it. I wanted to pull us all together and celebrate each other. I wanted an organization that celebrated women. I wanted to champion for black women. This passion started inside of me back when Yo-Yo was talking about the IBWC. I think I’ve mentioned that in a blog before, but it’s important to include that here so you can see when the first seed started and how the growth came about. In addition, I want to highlight the importance of inspirational, black women figures everywhere – including HIP HOP. While I credit Oprah with arousing my appetite to throw a ball, Yolanda Whitaker sparked my first memorable flame that told me I could make a difference. It is so important for young black girls to see women who look just like them and can relate to them making major key moves. It’s a high volume in a turned up society of white privilege and black stereotypes. When we see and hear each other, we are able to see and hear ourselves and Yo-Yo, blonde braids, colored eyes and all, was that woman whose voice was an implant of empowerment in my brain. I saw her and saw myself without a doubt. Perhaps that’s why Oprah’s disdain for hip-hop polluted me so much.  I never listened in full to her explanations and gave little credence to what it was I did hear. In hindsight, I totally get it and might even agree to some extent, but back then, I was pissed as if I was a rapper! I didn’t know if she knew of Yo-Yo or Queen Latifah or not, but I knew she was talking mad shit about an area of art/music that was not only my personal soundtrack but also a place that was stirring me mentally. I knew there was a space for me to create something for women and I knew it because Yo-Yo spoke so heavily about it in her music. In addition to that, what I  knew most about Oprah was that rap wasn’t something playing out of her Maybach speakers.

“It only takes one punch to drop ya

And then the IBWC will come mop ya”

~Yo-Yo, You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo


So needless to say that I had some colorful opinions about Oprah and tuning into her show was something you’d be hard pressed to see me doing. I don’t know when the shift of perspectives happened, but I am thankful that it did. Aging will definitely help your hindsight even if your foresight gets a bit blurry.
I am living proof that grudges and anger are only as good as the fleeting moment. You never know when you might need someone and you never know whom your blessings will come through. Oprah Winfrey, the same woman that threw my beloved hip-hop under the bus, would go on to show me that if I wanted to throw a ball, I absolutely could. In a sense, she showed me that I could do anything that I wanted to do.

Often times, I have asked myself why I was still in Indianapolis when my goal was to be the hell up out of here by the time I turned 35. I just knew New York would host my lifestyle. I saw myself living there and loving every minute and every turn of it. Until I didn’t.

It took time to find out what state I really wanted to live in (AZ…what winter?) but even after figuring that part out, I still didn’t leave. I’m still here in Indy right now, typing this from the north side of Indy. It wasn’t until two days ago that the answer showed me what it looks like. I haven’t left Indy because, whether I knew it or not, there was work for me here that I could not get done anywhere else. This work would be two-fold: It would be me working for/in my community and it would be me working for myself and showing myself what I can really do. In short, I’d be breaking chains and limits– two things that would surely happen in a new city where starting over would be a priority and being lost would be my lifestyle for a bit. There is no way I could have moved to NYC and thrown the Legends Ball. I wouldn’t have known enough people nor had enough connections just yet. I wouldn’t have my friends and supporters hands and hearts so close by to help me and I wouldn’t have been able to borrow their stuff. And then there are the honorees…..it was supposed to be every single woman that was in attendance, whether she came to be honored or to support. Every person in every chair was meant and destine to be in that room. I could not have done that from anywhere other than right off of 30th & MLK.

People like Earl Townsend, my brother, and dear friend – I wouldn’t have been able to watch him pull the incredible, life-changing Claim the Throne event together as he did. I won’t say it wouldn’t have happened without me here (What God has for you is yours to have), but what if I never did the Queen B. Ball? What if I couldn’t get a plane ticket in time to make it to his event?  Then there’s Ro Townsend, Earl’s wife, and my sister/homie/matriarch friend. Would she had been able to send me the books she donated to the ball? Alternatively, is that answer an automatic no because there would be no ball by way of Januarie York? Would she have received this honor from me or anyone else? Would Mali have received hers with the same impact? Would Remitha have loaned out table covers? How about NaShara Mitchell – a woman I went to North Central with and never knew personally but knew in passing – and owner of Studio B. Creative Solutions – the same place I looked at for the inaugural ball but didn’t have the $$ for became the PERFECT home of Tea & Testimony this year. Would that have happened? Would I have held this at a venue owned by a black woman? Would Carla have brought me all 11 of those trees with DJ Deez in the background, coming through on the music AND sound equipment?

I could absolutely go on and on with a list of people, places and things that set this ball off and made it what it became, but you get it don’t you? If I lived in that brownstone somewhere in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn that I have dreamed of, it’s highly likely I would have missed this portion of my life. I would have missed honoring my sisterfriends and giving them an extra push in this thing we call life. The LIT Ball answered the burning question for me of “why haven’t you left Indy?”

The answer: “Because I couldn’t.”

When I first started writing this blog, I was about to dive head first into my typical step by step process of how everything went, which leads to longer blogs. It hit me that, that’s not what I wanted to express. No one wants to read all of that or needs to know everything that I know. I would rather convey how I sought and saw God during this entire ordeal, and how He made Himself awake, alert and involved (insider phrase) for me at all times. When I first dropped the LiT Magazine, I knew I had to make sure this ball stood up to that. The results were surprising and the love and support it received meant I couldn’t half-ass the ball in any way. Throughout this ball, I had to set myself aside for the greater good of all things. I was able to raise five hundred dollars in fundraising from this should-be simple move and while that money went a long way for the ball, the growing theme for this journey was me learning how to get out of my own way. I stayed in it in many ways – I didn’t ask for the help I needed. I paid nearly $100 in chair covers because I didn’t inquire from my network. I missed the liquor license and getting the food catered and a few other small things, but in the end, I learned the necessary lessons. After all, Oprah has a whole team so why shouldn’t I ? #NextTimeGadget

I prayed over what I was doing and for guidance when I was weary. By the day of the ball, I had mastered letting go and letting God in. Even my host calling in sick couldn’t bring me down. I laughed. I genuinely laughed from my beautician’s chair. I couldn’t be bothered with stress and I offered to bring him some meds. It was like a new me. Most times, I would have gotten off the phone in tears and stress but not this time, not this ball! I was too LiT to quit, lmao!

My heart spoke, “I trust you, God!”

And so He delivered. My brother Earl and I played the hosts and it was perfect. When I first hit the stage to address the audience and begin the show that I saw it: Work.

I saw my work. I give all the credit to God because I know without God, I could not have done this the first time, much less the second. I wish I could write absolutely everything that happened and just how many things came together spiritually; like the fact that the venue we were in was the second venue I looked at for the first ball but our wires kept getting crossed and it didn’t end up working out. In 2014, I looked at Studio B. Creative Exchange and The Royal Palace, which was under a different name and owner, and now in 2017, I had BOTH venues for one ball weekend.

But I digress.

So yes, God has the glory from me on this. I also know that being a conduit doesn’t mean just sliding around and fitting in. It means WORK! It means sweat, sometimes tears and a strong desire to quit or abandon. It means wondering if your heart’s intent will be shown. It means not caring if you get the shine or not. It means being nervous that something major will go wrong and you won’t be able to recover from it. It means putting all those worries and stresses in a pot, turning it on simmer so the bottom doesn’t burn and walking away….trusting that God will tend to its contents. I did that. I walked away from the simmering pot many times. But it was WORK putting those contents in that dangon pot!!!!!!

It wore me out, it took away from my time at home with my person; I was suspended in “ball-mode” until it was over. At work, at home and in between (including sleep), it was all things ball and I couldn’t stop it. But when I looked out at that audience in that room, knowing it was over 100 plus people in a space that I pulled together with the help of a small team of dope folks (Remitha Lynn, Carla & Caylie Wimmersberger), made me almost pass out. Seriously, my heart ran a beat so fast with all those eyes looking at me to guide them through the night but I knew what I was there for and I didn’t acknowledge the nerves. I knew it was bigger than ‘fear’. I knew and know God. I coasted through the night, bypassing my tears to preserve my makeup and being in HQIC-Mode – running from one end of the venue to the other in a formal dress and long beautiful hair to make sure it’s all running smooth.

It was amazing. From my end, it was the most humbling thing ever. There is no way I could take credit for it, there is no way I could think that my shit don’t stink or that I am promised this type of love or response or support from people. This isn’t promised; this is earned! These are my people and they respect what God lead me to do. But more than ME – they were affected in a way that I hope lasts a lifetime.

They were celebrated and changed. They cried and stood as those “standing monuments” that Oprah spoke of at her ball. I spoke to the crowd about how I forgot Pearl  Cleage’s “We Speak Your Name” poem, which I intended to have read at this ball just like the first. Earl was about to exit the stage when he whispered, “That’s because it’s your ball now.” It hit me again. But not until it was all over, my long weave was on my nerves, and my makeup was long gone, did I really hear him. “It’s YOUR ball now.” 

One concern I’ve had and have expressed was getting in any trouble because I’m doing too much of what Oprah did. I didn’t want to seem like I was stealing from her, as this was a literal exercise in reactionary inspiration…if that’s a thing. In a sense, I am hoping to pay homage to Oprah for what she sparked in me and for what she did for her people. When I look back on the ball footage (YouTube), I see those beautiful faces smiling and laughing amongst each other and it’s priceless. Coretta and Maya, Ruby Dee and Natalie Cole – all sitting in the same room with  Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys, Angela Bassett and Halle Berry.  They were all rubbing elbows and toasting champagne to the good life. Some of them are gone now – some of those giant, legendary women have crossed the rainbow bridge of eternity forever. But that weekend will live forever and those women we mourn will have forever own a part of history in the lives of the ‘youngins’, as Oprah deemed them. I wanted nothing but the same for us. I wanted Tea & Testimony to impact women forever –not just for a moment – similar to the gospel day that Oprah had. I wanted the young women to meet the older women and for the strangers to learn they had new sisters. And it worked!!! For the first ball, I watched every legends ball video, studying and writing down pages of notes. I learned the process and I adapted it to myself. I taught myself how to do what Oprah inspired me to attempt. The first time it worked great. The second time, I had more fear than I realized as I became responsible for a 70% increase of company. But it worked because I believed I could and because I kept my faith on stealth-mode. And when time allowed me to come down from the dopamine of it all, I heard my brother Earl’s voice as he walked away and said matter-a-factly as only he can, “it’s because it’s YOUR ball now.”

Well damn.

It is MY ball. Not the Legend’s ball. The Legend’s Ball is Oprah. But the LiT Ball – that’s my shit right there. I made it into my own and in place of Pearl Cleage’s beautiful poem, I used my own…after all, I DO write poetry too. I spoke the women’s names and they stood as the Monumental Legends that they are. The room was decorated beautifully and echoes of Queen B. and stroke awareness were everywhere. I spoke on the importance of taking care of ourselves and in the days afterward, I wished I had said more but I think I said enough. The love from Mark Moore, someone I’ve never even personally spoken to, was nothing short of God’s plan. Why I felt led to post this event on the stroke.org website made sense after the contribution and conversation with one of his reps. Please remember that these books will be in within the next couple of weeks or so, so I will be in touch to get all attendees their “Stroke of Faith” books. If you are interested in one of these books – a book detailing Mark’s personal journey as a two-time stroke survivor as well as his faith- please leave a comment or reach out to me directly. I will also have them at Open Bite (May 13th). The passion for stroke awareness does not end with the ball!!!! In May (National Stroke Awareness Month), I will amp it up all over my feeds. Next year, I will say more and perhaps have a speaker. But for 2017, I had everything I needed. The fears that I created to worry about never came to fruition. My guy looked like fresh, I felt beautiful and the audience was incredible. Folks showed up and showed out and I loved it. It was a black-OWNED event and I use the word ‘owned’ in every way imaginable. From the venues to the DJ and photographers – it was Epic Black Excellence in so many ways. What else could I ask for?  This was 12-year-old me in 1991, dancing to “The IBWC National Anthem” in my bedroom and wondering how I could ‘stomp into the 90’s’ like Yo-Yo and make a difference. She made it popular, at least in my bedroom, to be a proud, intelligent black woman, and to influence others.

Then as life would have it, another intelligent black woman, whose objection of vulgar and violent rap lyrics led to my youthful hostility towards her, would eventually show me exactly how to pull what Yo-Yo sparked in me together.

The Great Black (h)Ope!

It was a cold day in February of this year when I was watching a YouTube video of a party I threw to celebrate my sister Nikki’s MBA graduation. I called it “The Master Class Dinner.” It was a fancy dinner party I pulled together and named after Oprah’s television show. Several more dinner and themed parties would happen after that one in 2011. More ideas would surface and go nowhere fast. In 2013, I came up with the title The Black Orchid Affair. Nothing popped from it. Then in 2014, my life changed forever but you know that story by now. And here we are. The 2017 LIT Ball changed me again, similar but leveled up to the way the Legendary Ladies Ball changed me. This one tho….this ball showed me my own power, abilities and my upgrade. This was me watching an upgrade happen and having the magic wand in my hand the whole time. This was me owning it, making it mine, breaking away from Oprah’s Legend’s Ball, and enjoying the fruits of my own creation. We already have a possible speaker for next year and a live orchestra!!!!

So I say thank you to Oprah. I hope a day comes when a girl or woman who saw me doing the stuff I do will want to say thank you to me, even if I never hear it personally. I want to be one of those ‘inspiring, black women figures’ that speaks to the whispers of young black girls and women. I sometimes see the work that so many other amazing and talented women are doing and I wonder if I really fit in with my antics. I wonder if the stuff I do, write and speak really is impacting for longer than a night. That’s somewhat why performing poetry wasn’t something I could persue as passionately as I once did. I needed to make an impact that goes beyond the mic and the night of my feature. As good as people say I am, I didn’t feel that nearly enough. I felt good ‘in the moment.’ But not like I left people with something tangible. March 19, 2017 will go down in history as the night I showed to myself that I FIT, I CAN and I AM…ENOUGH. I make a difference out here and I want to pass that along. I want to remind us that, in the words of Michelle & Barack Obama, YES YOU CAN!! I want them to see me and see themselves. I want them to know that there is no such thing as you can’t or you won’t. There is always room for you! This is a society that won’t celebrate us when we need it the most because they don’t see all we are doing just to stay alive daily. They won’t pull us up or give us a push but they will kick us and call us names. They will denounce us and stereotype us. They won’t believe us. They will misuse and abuse us for sport. They will, “kill you and say you enjoyed it” (Zora Neale Hurston). They will “show you who they are” so “believe them.” (Maya Angelou).

But none of this has to stop the fire in YOU! Or the drive. Or the passion. DO IT! GO ! FLY! BE FUCKING FREE !!!!! Throw balls, parties and take selfies at your photoshoots. Don’t have a reason or an explanation for everyone for everything you do. OWN YOU! Just like Oprah. I remember so many of us, possibly still fueled from her choice opinions on hip hop, were still against her when she broke free from NBC (?) and came back out with her “OWN Network” (double entendre). But why tho?! She’s charged. She has the damn Master Key !!! Oprah is doing Oprah and she apologizes for nothing about it. In the midst of it all, she is inspiring, building, being an activist for the causes she deems close to her heart and she is constantly pouring into others. Like her or not, she’s the Great Black Ope! She’s a powerful, black woman. A figure worth mentioning. A name that is recognized with grace and power. Class and hood. Dope and love. I CAN and I WILL. Plus a little bit of  I ALREADY DID.

Be like Oprah. Be like Yo-Yo, who has her own hip-hop school in Detroit & LA btw. Be like the women you are inspired by, even if neither of these. Be great. Be the woman YOU are destined to be! BE A BLACK, INSPIRING, WOMAN!!!!! Be the someone the youth will see themselves in, no matter how many years it takes to get the fog off the mirror.

This is my huge thank you. I end this blog with an old poem that was the last track from my album (feels funny to say that), entitled Merci. It’s a simple thank you track. Please add your name to it as well.

Thank you to EVERYONE that contributed to the ball in any way, be it financial donations or time and effort. Thank you Yo-Yo. Thank you Oprah. Thank you God!

Thank you, all for (h)OPE!

Oh and…thank you Kendria….for believing so hard in yourself, that you did. #AjYSituation

 

Blog Photo Credit: Illuminate Hue Photography/Lance Parker (LiT Ball), Eyes Wide Shut Photography/Rana Carter (LiT Ball), Wildstyle Pashall (Claim the Throne) & Jus Fam Photography/Abdul Shaheed Aaron (Personal Pics)

***Special thanks to: NaShara Mitchell/Studio B Creative Solutions, The Royal Palace Events Center, Mark Moore & Adrienne Moore, DJ Deez, Anitra Malone, ALL THE FUNDRAISING DONORS (including but not limited to Tressie Spears, Naz Khalid, Amber Dawn and more), Alaina Renae, Lyndell “Izzy A’more” Campbell, Vei from Kenyatta Dance Company, Remitha Lynn & Co., Carla (Caylie) Wimmbersberger, Damon Dulin, Tamara Hibbler, Nicole Dianndrea, Ronald Craig Jr, Earl & Ro Townsend, Rae Karim, Rheagan Gilmore, Wildstyle Pashall, The Learning Tree, Eric Saunders, Unequa Ganodu, Dominic Dorsey, everyone that helped clean up and anyone I may have left off…PLEASE don’t charge that to my heart. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT. YOUR LOVE. AND YOUR LIT ASSES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

M U A H !!! Catch us in 2018, how bout’dat!

 

 

Grand Closing: SevenDaysSevenBlogs

WOW.

So I wrote seven blogs, in seven days huh? Lol.

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,

He said

Will you bury me???

She stood

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

Amadou me,

And I don’t mean, “I’ma do me”,

I mean AMADOU….DIABLO

ME!!!

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

You

In black widows hats

Front row of pews that cradle the last look,

It could you be you

Left behind

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

Willing

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….

Can you

Endure

What it means, not to be with me,

But to be wife of black man

Will you,

Bury me

……and she attached herself to the cord of what would become their distant unknown future….

Right there, in the heat of a summer evening,

He proposed to her,

In the most honest of ways,

And she said yes, to  The things we never say.

© 2014 Kendria Smith

Black on Black Crying: Finding Where To Place Our Tears

I know people who know people.

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. 10469216_670779103013133_494910723398137443_n

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?

Next Question:

 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 all being 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.

Or –

…..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 financial boycott. 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. 

~j

 

 

Really Big (ear)RINGS

“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.” #FOHPeople_Mag_Trayvon_1The 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.Trayvon-Martin-hoodie (1)

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.

POWER:

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???

Rebellion.

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.

Activism.

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.

I demand you see black people, Without Sanctuary!

I demand you see our sons.

And daughters. Wives and mothers.

Human beings.

I don’t want to tread the line and be the acceptable negro. I’m not the acceptable negro. Black lives matter to me. I am black. AF! I fucks with my people heavily. I love us. I hate to see us dying.

I am not acceptable, I am scared.

I am not acceptable, I am a target.

I am not acceptable, I am black.

And you will know this when you look at me with my really big Trayvon Martin earrings on.

tmearr trmear

 

Blood in the Ocean: Maybe There’s a Shark in the Water

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. 108269216When 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.

What's the Difference????
What’s the Difference besides time????

Black death is porn and some of the tabs are: black man death, black woman death, black teenager death, black kids with toys death, black man running away death, black man hands up death, black woman mental illness death and the extra sickening, black couple killed ,  Black couple shot at 137 times deathblack couple w/baby in car death.

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. CncT1ErWgAAiUbuThe 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.

Dear Nicole: A Perspective on Guilt & Black Lives

***WARNING: Graphic Photos.

Dear Nicole Simpson Brown,

Where do I begin?

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.

Always inhumane.

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.Nicole-Simpson-Abuse-Diaries-1

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.nicole

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.

Michael Brown Sr., yells out as the casket is lowered during the funeral service for his son Michael Brown in Normandy, Mo., Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed Aug. 9 in a confrontation with a police officer that fueled almost two weeks of street protests. (AP Photo/New York Times, Richard Perry, Pool)
Michael Brown Sr., yells out as the casket is lowered during the funeral service for his son Michael Brown in Normandy, Mo., Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed Aug. 9 in a confrontation with a police officer that fueled almost two weeks of street protests. (AP Photo/New York Times, Richard Perry, Pool)

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.

Defendant O.J. Simpson (C) cheers while standing with his attorneys F. Lee Bailey (L) and Johnnie Cochan Jr (R), after hearing the not guilty verdict in his crimininal murder trial, Los Angeles, California, October 3, 1995. Simpson was found not guilty of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. (Photo by Agence France Presse/Getty Images)
Defendant O.J. Simpson (C) cheers while standing with his attorneys F. Lee Bailey (L) and Johnnie Cochan Jr (R), after hearing the not guilty verdict in his crimininal murder trial, Los Angeles, California, October 3, 1995. Simpson was found not guilty of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. (Photo by Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

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.merliemamie till paperrkingrma

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 25: Lesley McSpadden (in red) is comforted during the funeral services for her son Michael Brown inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church on August 25, 2014 in St. Louis Missouri. Michael Brown, an 18 year-old unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the nearby town of Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. His death caused several days of violent protests along with rioting and looting in Ferguson. (Photo by Robert Cohen-Pool/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO – AUGUST 25: Lesley McSpadden (in red) is comforted during the funeral services for her son Michael Brown inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church on August 25, 2014 in St. Louis Missouri. Michael Brown, an 18 year-old unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the nearby town of Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. His death caused several days of violent protests along with rioting and looting in Ferguson. (Photo by Robert Cohen-Pool/Getty Images)

er

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.OJ

Not when Alton Sterling just spent the night in the ground for the first time last night. a sterlAnd it won’t be much longer before someone else joins him –

-scratch that. Philando was the next day. philandoWhen 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.
~Januarie

 

 

*****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