|“The New Age of Slavery” by Patrick Campbell
I feel like I’ve been trying to write this post for at least two years, I just don’t know what to say. What is there to say? It’s like having a festering sore on your skin that never heals so in a way you become used to the pain; the constant irritation. And then every few months (or weeks or even days) someone comes along and sticks a knife in that never-healed sore plunging it back and forth, until the pain because some acute that you become numb. The numbness is for self-preservation. The numbness allows you to get out of bed in the morning; the numbness is what gets you through the day. The numbness allows you to wear the mask, to tolerate oblivious white faces that don’t bother to know, or care or even attempt to understand because they never had to. So I’ve been trying to write this post since Travyon Martin was murdered or maybe even before. Perhaps, I’ve been trying to say something since the day I realized that I was Black and what that meant. I have no answers, but here are some things that I’ve been thinking. The words bring me no solace but I cannot allow myself to continue to feel numb.
The day that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martian was my 23rd birthday. I was in Brooklyn celebrating with some friends. Stunned beyond belief, I said my hasty goodbyes and wept silently on the train back to Harlem. The Monday it was announced that the man who murdered Mike Brown would not be charged with his murder, I was in a screening for the upcoming film, A Most Violent Year. My friend and I were ignoring the Q&A with the actors and crew frantically checking our phones. I’d been in a state of unease since they’d announced they had a decision earlier that afternoon. My friend got a Google Alert and showed me that there would be no indictment. I let out a breath I didn’t even realize I had been holding, and I waited for my feelings to settle. I wanted to feel shocked or riled up. Instead, I felt numb; I wasn’t surprised, I was simply heartbroken. I checked my twitter feed when I got home just to see what people were saying, I retweeted some things, tweeted some of my thoughts and then I just sat in my bed and stared at the wall in my quiet apartment. I didn’t walk to the protest on 125th Street, I didn’t write anything, I simply stared off into space because what more could I do?
Wednesday it was announced that the police officer that murdered Eric Garner by using an illegal chokehold, as the now deceased man gasped for breath would not even be indicted, despite the fact that the murder was caught on tape. I left work with a migraine, one that had been in the back on my head since that morning. On my way home I stood back observing as protesters “died in” at Grand Central before slipping back into the crowd. Following Trayvon’s death I walked and marched, but I didn’t do that on Wednesday.
I sobbed in my chair at the cinema as I watched Fruitvale Stationand 12 Years A Slave (which I saw twice.) I wept again a few weeks ago at a screening of Ava’s DuVernay Selma. Films have always stripped me bar; perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to them. I guess those tears and these words are because of how familiar these images have become. How devalued and dehumanized that black people are, how black men are still painted as monstrous and seem to only be valued for their athleticism (almost to a fault). It is 2014 and we are still being strung up in trees while racist white people and uncle tom blacks who have be “invited” to the party, laugh out of their green lawns with their blankets and picnics baskets, smiling jovially and laughing as our rotting and mangled bodies swing from the trees. (Literally and figuratively.) While we holler and weep they take their selfies and check their social media pages.
Years ago, Harry Belafonte called out the biggest Black entertainers (Jay, Bey, Ye, etc) and asked where they were? He said that they hadn’t done enough, that they weren’t present. And he’s so correct. Mr. Belafonte walked across the bridge with MLK from Selma to Montgomery. So where are they, they have all of the platform in the world. Instead they’re sitting in their glass houses protected, sending the same posts that we post and repost over social media. Where are we? What is this? Where am I? Where is our President when we need him to tell the truth? I’ve always defended him and its true I see the pain in his eyes when he speaks, the weariness that he projects. I’m not so foolish to say that he’s immune. But I need him to speak; we need to hear from him. We desperately need this. We need it because Black men (and women) are being slaughtered and I’m tired of hearing Black people weep; of hearing Black mothers sobs because the boys that they’ve carried in their wombs were snatched from this earth before they even knew who they were or what they could become.
I am weary. I am tired. The fact that Black men are continually labeled as monstrous or demonic is baffling to me. Black men have always been my saviors. My daddy, with his dark dark brown skin was a force to be reckoned with. The men I love, who are my safe place, my brother and cousins and friends. The man who I’ve been in love with, the men who I’ve been infatuated with, who have been my lovers and confidants who’ve held me when I wept, and laughed with me and dragged me outside of my comfort zone have been Black men. They’ve broken my heart and protected me and have pissed me off. But they’ve always been a constant in my life, always steady looking out for me, opening doors and cars and complimenting. They have been some of the people who I’ve loved and adored most in this world. They are some of the most beautiful and tormented people. And through their struggle is different then my own I’ve always understood. The attacks on them have been an attack on me. This is terrorism to ALL black people, to black families, to communities of color. I’ve always been aware. EVERY SINGLE MAN I’ve dated has had a story about a cop pulling a gun out on him. Not just arresting him or pulling him over but literally having a gun shoved in his face.
I’m not sure what else to say, other then I don’t think I can ever bring any babies into this world. I’ve lost my parents; I couldn’t risk losing a child I’d never recover… Some days I’m barely hanging on as it is. All of these words I just wrote mean nothing… This whole situation, this whole place, these lives lost. It just makes me want to holler
|A mural in my neighborhood. Harlem, NYC.
Chocolate Girl in the City
Victor White III
VonDerrit Myers Jr.
John Crawford II
Larry Eugene Jackson Jr.
Johnnie Kamahi Warin
Robert Dumas Jr
Sgt. Manual Loggins Jr
Steven Edugene Washington
DeAunta Terrel Farrow
And thousands and thousands of others.