This one is for Trayvon Martin and his family.
I am not a political writer, I have never professed to be. The work I do is inherently political, but I am not one to grace my blog with witty prose and in-depth/critical analysis of current events and issues. My activism usually happens in the classroom, a historic site or a lecture hall. I do not have cable, so I turned off CNN and MSNBC a long time ago and network news doesn’t seem to hold my interest for very long. However, today, I feel as if the cloud that has surrounded me since the moment I heard the Zimmerman verdict is starting to clear and I wanted to write something down, while the pain is still raw and my eyes are still swollen.
The truth is, I have no words. Or at least, I don’t think I have enough words to express my pain and anger in this cloudy moment. I have been following social media a lot in the past two days. I have read some powerful words written by others who can turn their pain and anger into dialogue to keep the momentum alive. I thank them for that! However, it has been through the words of others that I have been able to push this cloud away and wake up. Yet, behind it all, the pain has translated to a new type of fear, or at least a fear that I think I had forgotten in my comfortable, suburban surroundings. The fear is that of a mother of African descent raising two sons and a daughter in country and world that does not value their lives…
“We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons” – Ella’s Song
I have been singing the beginning of Ella’s Song for the past two days, with a heavy heart and watery eyes. Remembering all of the brothers I have lost since childhood and in the process realizing that the mythical place that I have called home for the past 10 years or so is just that, a myth. The academy, the university, the secure tenure-track job that has been my focus for the past 5 years had me caught up in my career, my work, my mentoring others striving for their own academic dream. Let me say, Trevor and I have not neglected our children – we are teaching them daily about who they are or where they are from, but things have been slowly changing. In this past year, as our son navigated a challenging First grade experience, we were reminded that we have to have a collective strategy to raise a young, Black boy within the Massachusetts (specifically Western Massachusetts) public school system. This is not the Bronx or Brooklyn, New York. Neither Trevor or I were ever the only non-white child in our classroom. As we visit the school and interact with other parents and teachers, etc. we visibly notice that most people do not look like him, his classmates will not associate the terror of living while Black in their everyday lives. They will not learn about Emmett Till in the same way that we will talk about him in our home. His classmates may not learn about the courage of Mamie Till-Mobley in the same way we will talk about her. At every turn, and random moments, there is a Black history lesson to be learned, to help our children gain insight.
The words of Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, brings home that we cannot live in a mythical place and forget the power of white supremacy that shapes the world around us. What happens in Florida or Detroit or New York or Chicago affects us all.
“Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, ‘That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all!!!” -Mamie Till-Mobley
The recent words of Tim Wise have helped me,
“But in calmer moments these parents of color will also tell their children the truth. That in fact everything is not going to be OK, unless we make it so. That justice is not an act of wish fulfillment but the product of resistance. Because black parents know these things like they know their names, and as a matter of survival they make sure their children know them too.”
Where are the words?
So, I feel empowered by all of the gatherings happening around the country. There are movements, not just protests. Yet, I can’t be there just yet. I offer my support, but I cannot face the crowds right now. I don’t have the words…
And yes, I teach for a living, so explaining and talking is what I do, but right now, the only words I have are for my children…
blog out as the work begins…