I’ve been away for a few weeks. But for at least one of them I was on vacation. On the very last day, August 9th, while traveling back home and reconnecting to the wired world, I started to read posts and tweets about Michael Brown! It didn’t really register at first what had happened, but I knew it wasn’t good. I shut down and decided to wait until I returned home and took a deep breath before getting up to speed. Admittedly, at first, I was a loss for words. That initial reaction lasted up until this point.
The extent of my involvement initially was to sit and watch what was going on in Ferguson by watching all the news shows. I have been silent about this on purpose. I think I knew that once I started to talk about it, I would become angry and then sink into sadness. I watched the story unfold on MSNBC, CNN and Al Jazeera as well as the constant updates on Twitter. I watched the protests and all the signs, as well as the over-used chant of “No Justice, No Peace.” I watched this all the while feeling nothing but numbness and cynicism. Numb for obvious reasons, but the cynicism was a bit mean-spirited – even for me. This past month alone there have been four other black men who have died at the hands of the police and it has been hard on our communities. So much so that I’ve been sitting quietly and reflecting. I have to admit I don’t know what to do, nor do I know what to say at this point. The past couple of weeks have been all about black environments and the injustices that they endure at the hands of our law enforcers. The relationship between Blacks and the police in densely populated urban communities have been contentious, to say the least. However, there is a feeling down in the pit of my stomach that says, as horrific as this latest tragedy is, and they all are, it will not be the last.
What can we do? March!? Honestly, (and this is where my cynicism creeps in) I don’t have a lot of faith in these “peaceful protests.” We’ve been marching for years. For as far back as I can recall, during most of my adult life, we’ve been marching. We marched for Yusef Hawkin’s who was killed on August 23, 1989 (my 25th birthday) and since then, we’ve marched for Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and now Michael Brown. The story hasn’t changed. It is only coming to light more often, thanks to the usage of cell phone cameras and other hand-held devices equipped with cameras.
We African-American mothers begin talking to our sons as soon as they are old enough to begin traveling through the streets of big cities, and suburbs, about how to conduct themselves when stopped by the police “for whatever reason,” as well as other overzealous citizens that over-react at the sight of a black boy who happens to have a little height and weight. Somehow this is a threatening figure! Let’s not forget Jordan Davis who was shot by a white man who didn’t like his music. Ta-Nehisi Coates delivered a brilliant keynote speech at the Barnard Center for Research on Women‘s Public Good Conference entitled, “Black Boy Interrupted: American Plunder and the Incomplete Life of Jordan Davis.” The theme of this speech underscored the reality of how black boys live with the fear of not reaching adulthood.
It is frightening and an extremely tiring existence to have to wonder constantly if you’ll be the next one to get the “call” that your son is gone! It’s often paralyzing. Every time one of these stories re-surface, you wonder all over again. So, yes.. I’ve been sitting and reflecting and empathizing with what these parents must be going through. We often gather to let them know that “we are all (enter the latest black boy’s name who was killed here),” which means that this month alone, we have all died at least once a week! The only upside is that once all the media frenzy, trials, law suits and protests are over, we will have one more foundation whose mission will be to keep and help young teens from becoming the next statistic and they all deserve to be listed here: Amadou Diallo Foundation, Sean Bell Foundation, Oscar Grant Foundation and Trayvon Martin Foundation. There will no doubt be a Michael Brown Foundation that will follow. How many more names do we have to string together before America realizes and understands why be believe that our sons’ lives have no value?
Bless those mom’s with the privilege of never having to carry this burden to work or to the grocery store or laundromat, or to the movies or dinner and even to bed (SMMFH). Yes, good for them, because I’m not one of them and have no more words to express the emotional strain that this puts on those of us who deal with this on a daily basis!