Most of us aren’t this way because we want to be. We have no ill intent but, as spoken in those lyrics, it’s in our nature somehow. Our lack of control embarrasses us. The aftermath is shameful. We don’t boast about it in attempts to emasculate you. We would much rather have you hold us and help us through our journey to stop but you won’t be able to, after, it’s not your job. Anger is the most important emotion to control due to how violent it can make someone. Our control needs help. We can feel the rage as it starts to grow, but most times the argument in question has already gone too far. We don’t hit for sport or to exercise control; we hit for defense. I know it doesn’t make that much sense. But that tone of disgust that appears in your voice, and the sounds you make when you’re tired of us in the moment seem to push our meters up. The louder you yell and the more your language leaves a common disagreement and begins treading the thin line of emotional abuse, the less we can hold it down.
Don’t date women like me. For us, words have the same hit and force as fists and so we respond accordingly. At our boiling point lies the ‘violent bitch.’ We won’t be able to stop ourselves from risking it all as fits fly, rage thrashes and our eyes close to the incoming response.
Stay away from for we are dangerous.
We need help. We are pre-packaged so neatly and imperfectly flawless that it’s hard to remember sometimes that underneath the underwire in our bra lies a violent heart.
Two words that made up the title of a poem I heard back in 2003. Eventually, I wrote a response to it even though I wasn’t directly connecting myself to its subject matter. There have been several relationships where it never crossed my mind to throw a punch. For a while, I guess I thought I was ….ok.
We have ups and downs.
There are times, years even, where it seems like we’re different. We feel confident that we are healed although we never directly focused on such. It’s not until your kind comes along to dance a jig on our tightrope that we remember there is still something inside of us that needs fixing. We shake from the inside out. Use softer voices as a way of backtracking where the argument is heading because we know the feeling. We try without saying we are trying to keep from allowing the beast inside of us to be awakened.
Stay away from girls like me . . .
Because we fail at it often.
Your words will feel like mini knives, really sharp and piercing. Each one cuts a half-inch beneath the last and we can’t handle this. We weren’t taught how to properly deal with hurtful voices. Cruel and intentional word slinging can bring such mental devastation. Many people can handle that shit. They know how to pray their way through every disagreement or at least intercept it before it gets out of hand. We want to be this way and hopefully, one day we will. But for now, we know us and we beg you to watch your words. . . .
…But you don’t. You can’t because you are hurting too, from stuff we have nothing to do with. We both have been raised by with disappointment in our fathers. Your buttons get pushed too. It’s a masculine viewpoint of a mirrored reflection and we won’t be good for each other because of this. At best, we’ll be a hard erection to a sweet spot and the more we age, the more we know that life is way bigger than sex.
So stay away from us .
Girls like me are hurt inside our core where magma is pumping lava blood through our system. We have anger that knows how to get our attention. We’re not ready for what we wish we had and we won’t make good decisions while angry. To choose your kind would be to choose that same anger repeatedly. You may think it’s a knock against you but it’s not.
You’re not a bad person. You’re just a bad choice, for us.
Your beautiful is as bright as ours and I’m sure the shine will greatly impact a different life, but girls like me are too damaged to coddle your ego, tend to the needs you will have or pacify you with accommodating silence. Girls like me are loud.
Boisterous. There are times when we can be accommodating to our anger. Our hearts turn into leisure lounges for our temper to kick its feet upon. Anger feels welcomed with us; we open ourselves up and accept it…then we act on it. We don’t like being taken advantage of for the moment or the long-run or talked down to. We are not beneath you; we just have a different type of healing to do.
Girls like me can’t control it sometimes.
But we don’t give up. We are water bearers. Former mermaids that were drug out of the sea. Mercedes on feet, driving at full speed, poetry within a paragraph, perhaps we’re prose, girls like me don’t look like we would hoard the pain we do in our Micheal Kors bags but there’s much to be said about what we’ve internalized. It’s precisely why we don’t own compact mirrors. No one wants to see that when they are just trying to check for lipstick on their teeth. We feel secretly embarrassed when people speak of domestic violence. Because no matter how much of a discount we got on our Aldo heels, we know we still fit under that umbrella.
Stay away from girls like me….
Abusive girls. Abusive women.
Many would see us as lesser if they knew our secret, so we hide under cute dresses, crochet hairstyles, and Fenty foundation. We’re still ladies though. We want to do and be better but that begins with the choices we make on who we want to be and who we are willing to deal with.
Stay away from girls like me because we won’t deal appropriately with you. And you will call us crazy. You’ll tell a few friends that we are volatile. You’ll tell us we scare you and it will confuse us. We’ll respond with a chuckle at the idea that we instill fear in a grown man. But, I suppose it’s a fair statement. You will begin to do more than restrain us. You too will become violent and it will start with self-defense. It will grow into our standard relationship practices.
Girls like me… won’t give you what you need. We’ll be the opposite. Dangerously in love will understate how we act. So stay away from us. We are still mad at our fathers. A few of us still have yet to figure that out. They (our fathers) should have shown up. They should have taught us better and treated our mothers with more respect. We’re pissed that we (us andour mothers) were treated like everyday weeds instead of marvelous one of a kind flowers. There are pieces of our puzzle that require attention and repair and for us to stop looking out of our childhood-colored glasses.
There is no choice but to see those who failed to teach us proper love as human beings that just so happened to be in control of someone else’s upbringing. We can’t hold them higher than human nature. We’re special but not that special. Some of us are in charge of someone else. It’s a learning process to figure out no parent is above being a human being and one day, if we don’t fix our broken pieces, our children will feel the same way we do. We will inevitably show them a poor path of loving if we don’t allow growth to take place within ourselves.
Just stay away from us.
Not for now but for good. You are no good for us. Or to us.
We have to heal. We have to figure it out. We have to become greater than we are right now.
We have to choose better – for our internal and external selves.
And when this process has completed itself and we are open to freely fly in the name of love, we have one final request one of you:
Stay away from us.
Stay away from girls like me.
We are fragile.
And no matter how much gold lines the cracks in our Kintsugi, you will break us open and re-expose our blackouts.
We don’t want that.
Neither do you.
“All this love you speak of,
All I want is to love and be loved”
Nicki Minaj, the Crying Game
So stay away from girls like me.
Girls who are abusive started as girls who were abused – could be literally, figuratively or both. And if you ever wondered, abandoning your child is a form of emotional abuse (and torture). We want a love that won’t make us look back and that won’t pull violent tendencies out of our luggage when our intention is to unpack.
You’re not so special that you should be able to bring us the bags we’ve sat down for the last time.
This is the year of breaking cycles: Cycles of how we act and,
These words slipped my sister’s lips to the right of my ear and I emphatically agreed with her sentiments. The show had been on for all of two minutes at this whispering point and already we knew we were in for an emotional ride that would guarantee tears shed. Luckily I had some paper towels in my book bag, but once the show got underway I didn’t want to move, and at times couldn’t. Leaning down to grab my bookbag and remove some of the hard ply napkins I’d pilfered from somewhere in New York seemed like it would be a distraction to both the cast and myself. By the end of the play, I’d done that several times.
Welcome to my after-thoughts of SHE, a choreoplay created by an incredible dance choreographer, Jinah Parker and produced by Kevin Powell. My intent is not to recreate the 90-minute show play by play in this blog; I believe it to be something one needs to experience in person in effort to fully grasp how effective it was at telling these particular stories. Instead, I want to focus on how SHE made me feel, both internally and externally, as I journeyed with the four main characters through five stories, each feeling like a page from my own autobiography.
Quick backdrop about me (in case you don’t already know) to help put my perspective into context: I love dance! All of it. I love watching and participating in it. For too short a while during middle school, I danced w/an African Dance Troupe called FIRE, and for as long as I can remember and still today, I play songs at high volume and dance to the music as if I’m a professional, on stage with an audience mesmerized by the way I move. Dance has always symbolized freedom to me. The way an artist moves their body in tune with rhythmic sound, background noises and common chorus’ is like a feather being pushed by spring air. It’s such a natural experience and full of effervescence; delicate even. I wish I had stayed in dance classes and allowed myself the opportunity to form my flexibility and learn how to follow choreography the way I think I am when I’m at home pretending to be the student and the teacher. One of the allures of dance for me is how no stone is untouched. The dancer’s consciousness of their 5-count is effortlessly exuded in not just the movements of the feet, but also the controlling of the arms, down to the tips of the fingers and how they fold or relax at the exact right moment. Their eyes speak the lyrics they move to while their lips never part and dare to mouth the words. Their feet showcase their arch at specific moments and flatten at ease when necessary. Dance is an art form that requires all systems to be ready to go, on or off beat, depending on what the choreographer has led them to do. Dance is like freewriting, using your body as the pen and the paper.
Where dance asks the student to become the song, even if there are no words in it, theater asks the actor to become someone else-
-even if she can directly relate to the storyline.
This too feels savory to my soul. Anyone can memorize a script or read a monologue and it sound ok. But becoming, or embodying, another being while finding something in their story that is relatable enough for you to add your own special touches while still keeping yourself out of the characterization, is truly an art form. I believe that’s why there are so many different awards for actresses and actors. It is a remarkable feat to give your audience someone they’ve never met through you. Simply put, I love the art of dance and the greatness of acting. I’ve dabbled in both, but writing is my true calling. Still, I find myself sitting in theaters, festivals and other showings that include one or both completely enamored with hearts for eyes as I listen to their bodies create a story and watch their acting introduce me to someone new. Needless to say, I sat in the theater waiting on SHE to start, knowing that the artistic high I would have by the end would be something worth writing about. I kicked myself for not bringing a tiny notepad to take notes. Everything I am blogging is based on my memories of the show. No pictures or video were allowed, respectfully and rightfully so.
I’ve also received word that it will make another run later in the year and I will surely help promote it, so please be looking for that later down the line.
Let the Bodies Hit the Floor:
There were six dancers, each with her own personality about her toes. All six dancers have trained extensively in their art of choice, with some traveling as far as Amsterdam, Paris, Ethiopia and Isreal for study and teaching opportunities.
The musical selections were carefully chosen and perfectly intertwined with the storylines. When I heard Eryn Allen Payne’s Piano Song start to play, I relaxed even more in my chair as I instantly felt at home in this space. My unspoken (in this blog) love is music, and Eryn Allen Payne is an artist I recently got turned on to by way of Spotify trolling. She’s not on charts or playing on local radio, so anytime I hear that type of artist play outside of my earphones, it brings me comfort.
“Sometimes clinging to a cloud ain’t, easy as it seems
Sometimes clinging to a cloud ain’t, easy as it seems
But we try (just a little)
And we try (for you)
And we try (for me)
And we try”
Payne’s delicate voice sings like a songbird over simple piano keys that eventually wrap themselves in the arms of various horns and drums and high notes by the singer. I love suggesting music and Ms. Payne is someone to puto n your radar for certain, especially Piano Song. At the same time, the stage lights were up and the dancers gave us our first taste of the next 85 minutes. As they neared the end of the song and sprinted about onstage with high jumps, mind blowing one leg spins and facial expressions that were a cross of internal joy and melancholy fears, my sister moved close and spoke this blog’s opening line:
“We should have brought some tissue.”
The dancers were charged with being the narrators of the show, which was artistically exquisite because they didn’t have actual speaking lines. The narration was all foot and body work, facial expression and intensity. Throughout the show, different dancers would enter the stage and begin to tell the stories being spoken by the characters. When pain and hurt were present, the choreography was inflamed and at times frantic. They’d tug and pull on each other, spin desperately on the floor or run for the freedom the characters were searching for in their tearful cries. There was one specific a point a dancer was on the ground with her legs up, her arms gripping the ground and her head back. I felt the storyline in her movements. Her inhales and exhales were distressed and passionate and they almost made me lose my breath for her. Her toes were aware of their surroundings, her skirt spread against the concrete flooring as if it were purposeful.
In that instance, she was me. I was her crash to the floor and the melancholy in her feet. I watched them all dance for me, for my life and for my secrets and pain.
It was hard to know whether to watch the dancers or the person speaking but I attempted to use both eyes separately. No matter what dancer was on stage be it one, a couple or all, the words being spoken were given a palpable heartbeat by how the dancers connected their movements to each monologue. And man were they strong!!! They picked each other up, rolled off each other’s backs and did the fell into the splits as if it were as simple as left foot, right foot. The intensity elicited a listening silence throughout the room. We watched with our eyes fixated on how each talented dancer turned their footwork into the actors. When the conversations were lighter and loving, the jumps and spins were graced with smiles and spread arms. The songs made you forget for a quick second that this was a heartbreaking story of how much pain women carry with them on a daily basis.
This was not just a story of sexual trauma and abuse; this was a story of silence.
At one point, I remember thinking about the fact that in this room of women actresses and dancers, audience members and venue staff, there was more than five stories worth of women who could relate directly, or all too closely, to any one of the stories shared on that stage. It’s scary and maddening. The choreography put movement to the pain that hides behind the smiles on many of our faces.
There were four actresses and much like the dancers, they are all well versed in their art form and each have a resume that includes tons of theater acting, some television (including recognizable shows) and even a musical tour or two.
The stage set up was very minimalistic yet spoke volumes if you’ve ever experienced sexual trauma of any sort. There were four women, five stories. More on the fifth story in a second. The stage had four bedrooms, each with a woman in it. The rooms were all the same dimensions but varied in aesthetics. Each had a bed but the contents surrounding the beds were all different. In one room, there were tons of balled up and wrinkled papers alongside pill bottles. Another room was more controlled and clean with not a drawer out of place. One girl had a teenage looking room and the older matriarch of the play had a room befitting of her regal personality as well. Each bedroom held a different trauma but all fell under the same category:
These bedrooms are a crucial unspoken part of the play and I will tell you why. The significance they carry is effective to any audience member versed in this topic by way of personal experience. Our bedrooms hold our secrets. We keep our diaries, journals, AND silence in these rooms, hoping that closing the door or locking the book or hiding it in the panty drawer will shut out the effects it has on our lives and mental state. Bedrooms are where we THINK we have healed ourselves until we realize we haven’t. It’s where we throw our fits and tantrums, as did one of the characters. It’s where we ball up in our sheets and write or consider suicide or cry our eyes out, using our pillows to muffle the screams that cannot exist outside of that room. Our bedrooms are often our inadvertent tombs or temples of anguish.
Every time one of the characters descended from her room, another layer of her pain was exposed. Stories of molestation, sexual abuse, rape, and harassment fell out of the closed closets and into the arms of the waiting audience as well as the other characters. Again, I don’t want to give away too many details. I only want to convey how well these actresses delivered their roles. Like the dancers, there were times when it was just one or several and towards the end, all women on stage. The characters all shared the common bond of having been sexually traumatized and thinking she should remain silent while internally erupting with hurt and confusion. Throughout the room, of which you could hear an ant sneeze, there were sniffles. Tearful emotions were overtaking the packed audience of various ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds. We all collectively were slapped in our faces by the reality that too many women face and must live with. From catcalling to schools turning their backs on rape victims and court Judges that ask questions like “why couldn’t you keep your legs closed“, SHE moved through not just these four women’s stories of abuse and trauma, but those of MANY. Thousands of women and teenagers are abused every day and they stay silent due to the treatment of victims once they’ve gone public; these were their stories. These girls and women keep to themselves, self-medicating and secretly hoping to die and for some, attempting to do so.
“…Halfway ready to die but scared to be buried on our backs because what if someone sneaks into our casket and thinks we were asking for it?”
~Januarie York, We Be All Night
In SHE, the bedrooms represented silence and repression to me. They were places of unrest, fear, and self-doubt. Stepping out of the abyss of the bedroom and turning on your vocals is what this play was about. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN VOCAL!!!!! The matriarch in the show, played by actress Kimberly Dalton Chalk, suffered molestation as a child by a family member and stayed silent about it. Imagine how many of our matriarchs and [great] grandmothers have gone through this and we don’t even know it. Through her own trauma and experiences, she urges all the other women to be vocal. She pushes them towards healing, knowing that in doing so, she will begin to heal herself as well. Throughout it all, the dancers were interacting with each other and the characters themselves and it made for a phenomenal, emotional 90 minutes of trial & tribulation turning into a triumph over pain/guilt/fear.
SHE told these four stories of sexual trauma, each having its own ability to branch off into further traumas and ways to be identified with by the audience. The word RAPE was given a broader spectrum to exist on that included direct sexual rape, mental and sexual manipulation, catcalling and street harassment among other instances that all fall under the brim of saying NO and it not being respected. But there was one story that didn’t involve sex, although manipulation, abuse, and trauma were at the forefront of it. I cried throughout this play. I cried during different dance sequences and monologues. I cried from looking at the facial expressions and hearing the fear and defeat in the voices of the characters. I’ve cried during theater many times in my life.
But I’ve never uncontrollably lost it during theater like I did when they gave space and tribute to Sandra Bland.
Panel & Jinah Parker & Final Thoughts:
Jinah Parker, the creator of this show and professionally trained dancer/dance educator, ……
Well, what do I say exactly? I want to keep this brief because I know this review is long but there is still much more to process. I’ll say this: She has a body that looks to have been sculpted meticulously in a quiet room of a Smithsonian Museum. It looks like she dances. Her face as she moves is aligned with her steps. There is no blink that was by accident. No hair that doesn’t move the way it should, no scowl that shouldn’t be and no smile that should be missing. She dances like her life depends on every single movement. I’ve written about this type of dancer numerous times. ..
“…and I will chronicle slave stories and bear battered women’s bruises with these feet!”
~Januarie York, The Architect
It’s no wonder that she would use her body to give tribute to Sandra Bland. A woman who, at the right angle, could be easily blended into a picture of Ms. Parker. That’s the thing about the PTSD that black people are suffering from regarding our relations with the police. We look just like the people we see dying !!!! So it’s hard to not think it could be you when you, at times, feel like you’re looking AT yourself. I’m not suggesting this was where Jinah’s mindset was when she added this part to the show, but I do know that as beautiful and precise as the entire cast was, Jinah was the only one that could pull off the emotions, the anger and the appalling acts that led to the death of Sandra Bland. Through a video montage, we heard Sandra’s voice and were reminded of her face. We saw her get pulled over. We heard the exchange. As soon as she appeared, I began bawling crying and couldn’t stop. The montage showed other faces, familiar and unfamiliar, including Tarika Wilson, Rekia Boyd, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
Jinah’s face….Her face pulled me into those first moments I heard or wrote about each other these black women and girls. My body was jumping. Tears were in a complete cascade. I grabbed some hard paper towels from my bag and held it to my nose and mouth. I feared I would vocally cry by accident. It was gut-wrenching, yet necessary. The way the scene ended made me almost run out of the theater so I could collect my thoughts. But I didn’t. I sat there and pulled it together and watched the rest of the choreoplay. It was a breathtaking display. The whole damn choreoplay was just that: breathtaking. Inspiration. Honest. Frightening.
Jinah Parker has pulled together an incredibly talented cast and woven some of our most silent stories into 90 minutes of expression and verbal release. It was followed by a 30-minute talkback, of which I sat on the panel and briefly shared a story of mine of how I related to this showing. The cast was so welcoming, full of smiles and eyes that beamed with excitement. But before the panel began, Ms. Parker had us all do a breathing exercise. The exhale was so necessary and I am thankful for that. The audience was greatly impacted, men included. They stood and shared sentiments of fear and disgust and wonder of how to become the right type of ally. Some women spoke through tears and others with an imperative sense of awareness, calling on each other to push back against this system (hello Trump Admin), and our traumas.
I could continue to write about this show but I worry that I may have lost some of you already with this length. There is a way I could shorten it I guess, but I like being true to me. I like stepping out of the bedroom and allowing the silence to fall off of me. I like being vocal and talking in all my truth. I had to share this experience the way I felt it. I hope that Jinah finds herself reading it so that she may KNOW that I too am one of her fans and will be championing for this show’s continued to success. And if ever it finds itself touring . . .
Thank you for what you have created. Thank you for answering the call in your heart and mind to push this out and into the world. Thank you for taking on the pains and hurts and traumas of your fellow sisters and turning them into a conversation. Thank you for not layering this show with unnecessary, unrelated moments in an effort to keep the attention of the audience. I’ve seen that happen before and it’s hit or miss; thank you for trusting yourself and your work. This is a heavy show. I can’t say it’s not. But it’s so necessary for people to see and hear. Too many do not know that the women right next to them are walking around with this type of hurt stewing in the back of their minds. We suffer in silence and we die in suffering when we don’t have to. This choreoplay was not for entertainment; this was for education. Thank you for your heart. Your art. Your calling. You move like the wind is your direction and your passion for this project is easily seen and equally felt. To sit alongside you and to have you trust my voice is humbling and a true blessing to my soul.
Again, sister, I say thank you. On behalf of myself, the cast and all the women out here who have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Finally, a special thank you for the Sandra Bland tribute. In the same spirit of speaking our names aloud, as many of us in the audience did when the different names graced the montage, I will speak the names of this cast. This is what we like to call LIVE ROSES: flowers delivered while they can still be smelled. Ladies/Cast – Congratulations on an EXCELLENT showing.
I will come back to see it when it runs again!!!!
Afterword: I Speak Your Name
Phaedra Michelle Scott – Directory
Sarah Elaz – Dancer/Narrator
Yuki Fukui – Dancer/Narrator
Brittni Genovese – Dancer/Narrator
Evelyn Joy Hoelscher – Dancer/Narrator Tammi Cubilette – Actor/The Mother
Not long ago, I watched the FX television miniseries,“The People v. O.J. Simpson”, and after the six-episode concluded, I had a clearer perspective on your and O.J. Simpson’s relationship that I didn’t have back in 1995 when I was sixteen years old. The series was well acted and although I recall most of the details, I wasn’t completely engulfed in the trial back then. I didn’t even really know who O.J. Simpson was. I just knew he was a football player who had been in Naked Gun or something, and I only knew about the acting because that’s how people kept trying to relate him to me. I knew what happened and I knew he seemed guilty. I also knew he was black and Rodney King was no stranger to me. And so 16-year-old Kendria Smith had her mind made up on what the outcome should be. I was in the school office at North Central that day.
Someone screamed in the hallway but didn’t sound hurt; it was a joy. Quickly the screams turned into outright cheers and people started running down the hallway. All the black students within earshot of the person who found out the verdict first were rejoicing. Someone came into the office and yelled out NOT GUILTY, and the office cheered. I didn’t…well, not OUTWARDLY. I cheered internally. It was the exact outcome I had hoped for, and it stings me to say this, but-
-I had no remorse for you at the time.
But hey, I was 16 if that soothes the bruise a bit.
The People vs. OJ show gave me a clearer view of the entire situation but if that wasn’t enough, a documentary followed (put on by a different station) that was just as captivating.
O.J.: Made in America was a five part documentary that included Simpson’s own voice, police tapes, private home videos and lots more information. Because it was a documentary, there were also interviews with people who were a part of the trial including Marsha Clark. The difference with this film was it explored and dissected race in America, particularly in LA at the time and related it all to Simpson, you and everything that transpired. It was pretty intense at times. Add to all of this I’m much older than sixteen now and more seasoned than I was then. I’ve been in an abusive relationship and if you’ve been around these blog parts long enough, you may know that I’ve almost died at the hands of a man I loved. I’ve had a gun pointed directly at me or more than one occasion. So as a survivor of domestic abuse, I see your relationship with OJ and your subsequent murder with an evolved way of thinking.
I’ve rambled long enough. I should say what I came to say.
We live in a fucked up society man.
There are hundreds of thousands of beautiful people with strong personalities that could light up the world if given the opportunity, but as much as we have them, we have evil spirited people; folks who only know hate and bigotry and create destruction in both their words and actions. Sometimes it’s a challenge to find the balance in it all but I have to believe it’s possible….right? Our country has spit on black people since they ripped my ancestors out of their sleep with knives and chains and stuffed their freedom on a big ass ship to bring them over to United States of Stolen Territory. Some were dumped in the ocean like discarded cattle carcasses during six-to-thirteen week voyage. They made them slaves to white laziness, raped them and killed them for fun. They pic-a-nigger’d my people and right now today, picnicking is something considered cool to do on a date. My people’s pain is our current vocabulary.
They stole from us, bombed us, wouldn’t let us be free even once we were. And more than any other havoc they could wreck on us, they killed us. Excuse me…”them”.
They killed them. Them = My people.
And time after time, they got away with it. They hunted us for sport, lynched us in front of public town halls and made sellable postcards out of it. White people wrote love notes and I miss you letters on the backs of our broken necks!! And there was no consequence – it was ALWAYS condoned. They even did interviews admitting to the gruesome ways of which they ended black lives. It should be noted the lynchings were hardly ever JUST the hanging of people. Often it involved beatings, getting shot or drowned or burned as well. Black death has always been inhumane. Fetuses have been cut from hanging black mother’s wombs to fall on the ground and be pierced with shotgun blasts.
It continued until it was illegal. But then their homes were stalked and set on fire. Their husbands were kidnapped and killed.
They were shot in their own driveways, in the back, by a scandalous coward.
Shot in the neck from across the street by a scandalous coward.
But as a race, my people have remained unbreakable. We have long been victims of a system that was not created to include us but that still prevails today. People in denial have spoken of how racism no longer exists or how these events are things so far in the past that no one should still be affected by them but I beg to differ. And I know you are wondering why I am saying all this to you, but I assure you it will all tie together in just a second. Racism is not something that halted in the 1960’s and only resurfaces when black people bring it up; racism never ended in the first place. Yes things have changed and many doors opened in the name of racial equality but our climate is just as dangerous and racially charged as it was in 1964. The only thing you need in order to keep racism alive is a family that is willing to pass down the tradition of hate to their offspring. My grandmother couldn’t vote. My mother was a kid when MLK was killed.
The year that O.J. Simpson went to trial (1995), the Rodney King verdict was still a fresh reminder for anyone who thought racism was a thing of the past that. No matter what you want to call it, this justice system doesn’t give a damn about black people and never has. Seeing the Rodney King tape all these years later still invokes the same gasp in my spirit. How a jury could acquit any of those officers can only be explained by saying #FuckBlackLives!
And now, twenty plus years later little has changed. Black men, women, and children are repeatedly being shot and killed by police and local citizens and their deaths are almost always justified in the eye of the law despite any video and/or witness accounts that tell a different story. The police shoot and kill us and put our children in harm’s way with no disciplinary action taken. The silent department oath must be shoot to kill all black people and children at will. Every argument used to against us has been proven to be useless in saving our lives. Respectability politics have yet to save our lives. I’m personally tired of marching and protesting and going to community meetings. None of what we say or do keeps us from being another hashtag or temporary trending story.
Throughout history, our families have been ripped apart and dismantled. Our heads of households stolen. Our men killed in cars and department stores. Our daughters can’t stand in alleys or sleep on couches and our sons can’t reach for their wallet, drive their car, sell cigarettes or CDs, steal from the bodega (like typical teenagers), they can’t play with toy guns, and they better not ask any questions.
It’s a sick cycle that we didn’t ask to be born into yet here we are. This has been the temperament of our country since before you or my arrival and I tell you, Nicole, it’s fucking exhausting.
I was inspired to write you a letter after I watched the final episode of the documentary series. As I said earlier, it was quite an intense watch. Not only did they heavily cover your relationship to OJ from start to end, but they also showed every graphic photo they had including pictures from the crime scene. I saw how he slashed your throat open and nearly decapitated you. I went to school for forensics with the hope that I would eventually work crime scenes and help solve cases. I can’t help but imagine the horror of the people who turned your defeated body over and found you nearly cut in half. It takes a lot of personal rage to run a knife across someone’s neck until its halfway cut off like that. They also showed Ron Goldman’s bloodied body, full of defense wounds and slumped over. There were photos from your collection that you took for evidence of beatings. They played some of your 911 calls and I could hear the terror in your voice when you spoke to the operators and told them he was gonna kill you. Then there was the cop interviewed that answered one of your calls for help who found you naked, hiding in the bushes outside the home you shared. What a terrible way to live.
It’s easy for people to sit back and wonder why you kept going back but I get it. We, victims of domestic abuse, tend to hope that the person we met and loved pre-violence will return to us, sans the monster. Most times, they promise us he will and we let our heart do the thinking for our brain. It takes a lot of willpower and courage to leave an abusive relationship for good and to start over, but after some time you managed to do it. You freed yourself from chains of needing to hide your face in public and call 911 but Nicole, were you still scared? Did you look over your shoulder at times? It was shown how OJ essentially stalked you and let you know he was watching by harassing you when you had company over. As you tried to rebuild your life and give your children a healthy childhood, I can’t help but think you had to still fear for yourself. That fateful day that your mother left her glasses at the restaurant that would lead Ron Goldman coming to your home, had you let your guard down? Were you feeling confident in yourself and your fresh start? Had O.J. given you a break in the crazy phone calls and relentless stalking?
What we know is you were brutally murdered by a savage with a vendetta against you and anyone within eyeshot of you. Your life was not taken by a serial killer or some crazed lunatic on a murderous rampage. It was very personal. It was one of the worst crime scenes I’ve ever seen and as someone with a semi-forensics background; I can honestly say I’ve seen my share of them via photos. Watching both the television series and then the documentary made me hurt for you in a way I didn’t when I was sixteen. It put a human to your face instead of a ‘white woman’, which is all I thought when I was a teenager. Now, all these years later, I relate to you as a woman. I hurt for the way your life was taken and the fear that probably touched your soul as it became harder to breathe. I know people who were shot and killed by the men they loved. I know what it’s like to lose someone to domestic violence, but it seems like the ones I know got off easily in comparison to you. You suffered, and I do believe that was the intent of your murderer. All the evidence pointed to OJ Simpson. Two different television shows with tons of reenactment and actual documents and videos, including home videos from when he first got back to his house after the trial was over, make it hard to see anyone else at the forefront of your murder.
I believe with all my heart that OJ Simpson is the person who stole your life. He played God in your marriage and again in your death. The OJ I learned of through these movies is not who I knew when I was cheering for him in high school. Remember, I didn’t know much about him as a persona. Today, I write this letter heavily saddened for you. My heart actually feels the same heaviness for you that I felt from April Willis, the last person I knew to lose her life to domestic violence. As a woman and a mother, you deserved your life. You deserved to still be here, to see your beautiful children grow up and to experience aging. There is no ‘reason’ you should be dead aside from loving the wrong man.
I 100% believe that O.J. Simpson plotted and planned to take your life and ultimately executed it with a perfect sloppiness. His hateful love for you controlled HIM so much that the adrenaline he felt from killing you wouldn’t allow him to even clean up after himself. It was so obvious and with the background of your relationship being taken into account, it was expected. Your sister expected it. But I think she thought you were free just like you did. I’m sorry that you died Nicole. I am sorry that you were not free.
I’m sorry that OJ’s selfish need to dictate your every move led to the ending of your life and I’m even sorrier for how it ended. No one should have to die like that. No one should be taken from this world while their kids are just feet away. You shouldn’t have had to look over your shoulder day in and out worrying about your safety. You weren’t allowed to just be; you had to live in fear. You didn’t get the opportunity to grow into all the potential that you had because your life was deemed unworthy of living. OJ declared himself judge, jury, and executioner of your story and he ended it at his choosing without so much as an apologetic gloss over his eyes. I think internally, he was happy. I think every day that he sat at the table during the trial he replayed what he did in his head confidently. He was proud of himself and the further the Dream Team got him from a guilty verdict, the more arrogant he was in his demeanor, confidence and proudness. And as a woman, as a survivor and even as a future stepmother, I hurt for the unceremonious way you were taken from this world.
I apologize for the violence and fear you experienced throughout your relationship with OJ Simpson that led to your ultimate death. I am sorry that your children were left motherless and then forced to live with the man that made them that way. I’m sorry OJ was abusive and crazy and that the demons (mental illness) he lived with in his head did not get the appropriate help that he needed. I’m sorry that we tell women to ‘get out’ of violent relationships but we abandon them after that. We judge them when they don’t leave, but we don’t take into account that leaving could still result in their murder. I’m sorry that as a country and a people, we have yet to figure out a true safe exit for women who are in fear of their lives. It’s common sense (IMO) that if a man is trying to kill you in the relationship, leaving won’t stop him either. Woman to woman, I’m sorry for a lot of things.
…but I’m not sorry he got off Not Guilty.
I would vote him not guilty today if I was on the jury. I’m not even sorry for feeling that way. I am sorry that we live in a society and a country where Black Lives don’t matter so much that we as a people could knowingly see this man killed you and still feel obliged to support him and champion for him to get off. I’m sorry that we live in a country where black lives have mattered so little that the entire black population of my high school flooded the hallways rife with happiness from the not guilty verdict. I am sorry that we all know we don’t matter here and that we must take our victories when they come, even at the expense of others.
I am sorry that we have been sacrificial lambs for this country since our bodies were being dumped in the ocean on the journey here. I am sorry for my ancestors who were chained together and lying on top of each other, covered in piss and feces, fear and pain. I am sorry for the whips that snatched the leftover scent of Africa from our skin that would never again heal right. I am sorry for the thousands of black women that gave birth to mixed race babies that were a product of rape. I’m sorry for the times our men couldn’t save and protect us and the times that we couldn’t do the same for them. I am sorry that Mike Brown was gunned down in the street like a wild animal and I am sorry that there needed to be instances such as marches on Washington, Voters Rights, sit-ins, protests, bus boycotts and white’s only fountains, restrooms and restaurants. I am sorry that black people have always been good enough to entertain, but never great enough to be human.
And for that, we cheered when OJ got off.
Our verdict-rejoicing inadvertently condoned your death and I am sorry that this is the type of country we occupy.
This letter might sound like an oxymoron but I believe that is the nature of where we live. Not enough people actively believe that black lives really matter. This country was built BY us but not FOR us or even with us in mind. We started as property and although we are not such anymore, we are treated with resentment because of it. We are given NIGGER status every time we step out of our houses and unable to return at night. Every time we are shot as we are in cars (Sam Dubose, Philando Castile, Deravis Rogers), and crowds (Rekia Boyd), and Walmarts (John Crawford) and parks (Tamir Rice), we are reminded that we that too many white people, we are still pic-a-niggers. I remember after O.J. got off for your murder, he was sued in civil court by both you and Ron’s families. The case was won on you all’s behalf and he was ordered to pay. According to the documentary, he would hide his incoming money so that it would not be reported and turned over to the families. His disrespect of you even in death was a direct parallel of the treatment black people get on a daily basis. I’m sorry that it was you chosen to be the lamb for us…but honestly, it was about time someone was.
I’m sorry that black families are broken and disrupted forever by untimely deaths and the only thing they offer us as a way of pacification is to give us a few million dollars that will be scaled down tremendously by taxes. O.J. Simpson was ordered to pay $25 Million dollars to your and Ron Goldman’s families for taking your lives. Our families (black families) are often awarded sums in the amounts of 2.5 million and sometimes four. **UPDATE: Sandra Bland: 1.9 Million settlement. Tamir Rice: 6 Million. Akai Gurley: 4.5 Million. Philip Coleman: 4.95 Million. That’s not even adding up to the 25 million Ms. Simpson and Mr. Goldman’s families received. ***UPDATE: Michael Brown’s (no officer indictment) family settled for 1.2 million. Philando Castille’s (officer found not guilty) mother just settled for 2 million. (updated 6.26.17)
Our lives are not valued here; not judicially or financially and I’m sorrier about that more than anything. I’m sorry we needed a win of some kind. But after Tulsa, OK and after the Philly bombings, and of course the lynchings, shootings, rapes, Emmitt Till and a list that continues literally through TODAY, we deserved and needed a win. We played nice for too long and waited for those in office to give a damn long enough to actually recognize there even is a problem, much less help us fix it. This was not something anyone would have wanted to happen, but since it did . . . the acquittal was merely an opportunity for us to stick the shoe on the other foot.
We needed O.J. to get off for murder. It’s sick. It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. It’s not something to be proud of. But as I look at the climate of this country over time and including the here and now, and as sorry as I am that your life was taken in the manner of which it was, I am still not sorry that OJ got off.
I am sorry that he disappointed us and wouldn’t go away. He was supposed to tuck his guilty ass in the corners of society and find silence and solitude in his victory. If this were a case on Law & Order, he would have been found guilty. All the evidence pointed at him from every single angle. He should NOT have gotten away with murder but the elements of a corrupted legal system, a police force wild with badge carrying racists and a community desperate for their own justice set him up to win. We convinced ourselves that he didn’t kill you. We ignored the taped phone calls and the pictures of your swollen and bruised face. We pretended that all the blood droppings that tested positive for you and Ron, found in his home and truck, were merely a coincidence. We as a people dismissed your death and in return, OJ was supposed to disappear. He instead remained the same arrogant asshole he had always been and it caught up to him.
Honestly, he let us down. He wrote that tacky, insensitive book and ran through the black community making a mockery of himself and us as he tried to refresh his fifteen minutes. We were the people who celebrated with him and were proud of the Dream Team. Everyone bought an ‘if it don’t fit, you must acquit’ t-shirt and wore Not Guilty hats in honor of a man who didn’t even identify with us prior to this. As sick as I know it sounds, we were subconsciously and quite temporarily happy. FINALLY, the white people would get a taste of what it’s like to bury a loved one and no one be held accountable despite the obvious guilt. They would learn what it’s like to have the system be a massive FAILURE for them. That feeling that we never get to rid ourselves of –
-the feeling that your life and your loved one’s lives don’t matter, had been reciprocated. Having all the signs point to one person and their unlawful transgressions and that person be able to smile and walk away free from the courtroom was an infliction that up until that trial, was most likely to affect the black community. FINALLY, we got a win on our side.
I’m sorry this is the country we live in.
I’m sorry this is the letter I’m writing to your memory. I don’t support abuse and I don’t condone muder. Your children are adults now and O.J. Simpson is in prison. He will get the CHANCE of parole next year, but it’s a safe bet that he won’t get it. OJ has been punished for the murders he committed by way of a different, lesser crime; he will likely do every hour of his sentence. The trial is 20 years old but I’m sure your family as well the Goldman’s still feels the weight of your absence and the hurt of the not guilty verdict.
I’m really sorry that you lost your life, Nicole.
You absolutely did NOT deserve to. You were a beautiful woman. I champion for women of all races – for our equality, our safety, and our respect. I would champion for you too. I have championed for you.
I wish you wouldn’t have answered the door that night. I wish your mom had have remembered her glasses. I wish your children still had their mother here. They should have grown up WITH you; not memories of you.
I’m sorry. I really am.
But I’m not sorry O.J. Simpson got away with murder.
It was a win for the black community. A disgusting, filthy, blood win. A win we would have preferred to not want so badly. But it was a mirror of the type of loss and subsequent failure of justice that we experience far too often. Just ask the mothers of Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Remarley Graham. Freddie Grey. LaTasha Harlin. Akai Gurley. Trayvon. Tamir. Jordan. Michael. John. Keith. Bettie.Kevin.Leroy. James. Roy. Thomas Shipp. Miguel. Tiara. Sandra. Cornelius. Chandra. Jamar. Richard. Stephen. Michael Lee. Alonzo.
The list is literally endless. There are so many names of unarmed, unjustified deaths of black people that I just started using first names so I could write this overdue blog faster.
For that reason alone,
As sorry as I am that you lost your life, I’m not sorry that the white race spent a little time in our tap shoes. I’m not sorry that there was a sacrifice.
I’m not sorry that O.J. Simpson got away with murder.
Not when Alton Sterling just spent the night in the ground for the first time last night. And it won’t be much longer before someone else joins him –
-scratch that. Philando was the next day. When I started this letter, I intended it to speak on behalf of me and my people.
But now, I think I will let it just speak for me.
And I ain’t sorry.
*****9.28.16, 4:53PM – THERE HAVE BEEN AT LEAST 5 NEW NAMES ADDED SINCE i WROTE THIS. IT’S WAY MORE THAN FIVE; I’M JUST LYING TO MYSELF. POINT IS, THE LIST IS STILL GROWING….AND I’M STILL NOT SORRY. #nOTgUILTY