Corona Chronicle 5-Black Folks Fighting to Stay Alive
The South is brutalized to a degree not realized by its own inhabitants, and the very foundation of government, law and order, are imperiled.
• Ida B. Wells
We barely had time to repost and celebrate the posthumously awarded Pulitzer Prize of the late Ida B. Wells before we were brutally reminded of what her life’s work is often summarized as-documenting lynching. Ida B. Wells actually wrote numerous articles that were published and ran a reading room that served as a safe haven and place to find inspiration for Black southerners that had made their way north seeking new lives and were met with culture shock. She didn’t want to see young people perishing in the streets for lack of vision and direction, so she made a safe space for them to come into and read and learn how to be gainful members of society. In spite of giving her literal all financially and emotionally to the Black community, she is not recognized for all of her giving because she is a Black woman that stood up and spoke out on a matter that America still is not addressing-lynching.
In the midst of the on-going deaths during a pandemic, the virus of greed rages on in the Gullah/Geechee Nation as destructioneers still step forward to meet with county planners to see what they can build next. These places and spaces will be there to the exclusion of the natives beyond those that are willing to sell their souls to work for minimum wage and to cater to assisting in the illusion of spaces that keep groups separated from the “other” that they do not trust. This “other” group happens to often be the natives that already occupied these spaces that Anglo people want to “discover” and recreate for only those that look like them. They don’t expect anyone to enter without a pass just as passes were needed to go from one plantation to another during chattel enslavement.
Apparently, Black skin bars you from having a pass to even move about from one part of your community or town to another even in this century. More oft than not, those that bear brown and black toned melanin filled skin that do not “stay in their places” may find themselves crossing the threshold of death.
Given the murder of Brother Ahmaud Arbery, I cannot ask him if he had ever heard of Ida B. Wells during his brief lifetime. However, I do know that growing up in the Gullah/Geechee Nation, I never heard of her in one class. I know that I have marched the streets of Brunswick, Georgia due to numerous injustices over the years and I have seen people stand and watch us as we marched by and wouldn’t join us because they were afraid of retribution. I know that when I realized that this young man whose image was beginning to flood my newsfeed on social media wasn’t just killed in Georgia, but specifically on the Georgia coast in the Gullah/Geechee Nation, I couldn’t watch the video for days. When I finally saw it, it was because I walked into my mother’s home as it played on the national news. I saw this brother fighting for his life on one part of the screen and in my mind I saw Ida B. Wells fighting for all Black folks lives up until the day she died.
I shook my head and walked back out of the door that I had entered and grabbed field tools and went out to work on the ancestral land that I work on each year. I thought of the proverbial phrase, “A hard row to hoe.” As I chopped down weeds and grass I could hear in my mind, “Kill it before it grows.” I started to see the bodies sung of as “Strange Fruit” that had been hung from trees over the years. I then saw the pickup trucks that dragged Black men and women down the streets to parade them in front of mobs that resembled those that we now see entering United States government buildings fully armed with masks covering their faces wherein before those carrying this same mob mentality wore hoods. Each felt that they had the right to still destroy the minds, the bodies, the traditions, and the communities of those that do not look like they look or behave as they want them to behave. Their whiteness had given them the privilege to commit hate crimes and crimes against humanity for centuries without having any fear of being found guilty of doing anything beyond protecting their own lives and their own communities.
It comes as no surprise that funds have already been raised online to support the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery because many whites feel that they were only protecting their neighborhood and their families from this unarmed Black man that was running through where they lived. Somehow, Black people running seems to always indicate a crime in these people’s minds when we are often still running for our lives in America even when standing still!
Black folks are sitting still at home with their minds racing about how to stay alive in the midst of a pandemic to only see videos of police still racially profiling and threatening and killing them as they go out to get essential supplies because they are wearing masks to protect their health. Ahmaud Arbery went jogging like so many white people have been doing daily to keep up his fitness. However, he died for jogging while Black and it wasn’t even seen as a reason for the people that killed him to be arrested. The horror of this runs through the minds of Black people that were born and raised in America and we see us all running out of time in a place that still allows lynching and murder and any other term you want to call the killing of Black bodies to be something that is not noteworthy enough to address until we run out into the streets and start screaming loud enough that our masks fall from our faces and we have run ins with governmental law officials that finally hear why the masses are screaming.
Black folks from Africa to China to America to the Gullah/Geechee Nation are screaming so that the media will hear that we are fighting to stay alive! As Ida B. Wells wrote:
The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.
The press finally started to report about a death that took place in February as we rapidly approaching Ahmaud Arbery’s birthday in May. Once the people knew what happened, they took their lives in their hands and took to the streets jogging. They are literally running for all of our lives.
The entire country is looking at the south as the place that rushed to reopen first in spite of the fact that Blacks are dying from COVID-19 at unprecedented numbers. The world is looking at the United States wondering how this can happen and why wouldn’t they protect their people. The latter do not realize that the death of Ahmaud Arbery and this long overdue acknowledgement of the lynching records amassed by Ida B. Wells shows that Black folks have not been accepted as people of the United States. The fight to be seen as other than “other” still remains and that fight may cost you all your resources including your life. Therefore, many have been wearing masks as was written of in the poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar long before folks physically started making the mask that we wear today. The virus of attempting to hide our Blackness so that we would be protected has infected and affected the Black community for generations, but it hasn’t protected us as we see in this moment where racial profiling is still killing us. COVID-19 complications are killing us. Running, driving, and walking while Black is killing us. Self-hatred and lack of compassion for other Black people is killing us. So much so that the NAACP has launched the #WeAreDoneDying campaign. Unfortunately, unless Black people truly stand up and fight together in unity no matter our age, geographically location, or financial stand in global society to protect the lives of ALL Black people from these continued lynchings and the verbal and written lynchings that we do to one another in order to advance ourselves, that campaign will only be a hashtag in the digital world while more Black death comes in the real world.
One had better die fighting against injustice than die like a dog or a rat in a trap.
• Ida B. Wells
My people, if we have ever been in a fight before, that was minor. We are now truly in a fight for our lives. Let’s pray that we stand together in victory and that we will finally reach a point where were celebrate together in unity!