Fortunately, GOD and I communicate directly on a daily basis and GOD has a way of insuring that I get the message that I need before I proceed. The message yesterday came via a Facebook memory showing me overlooking the water from my balcony in South Korea. At first, I was surprised that it had already been a year since I had last been to that country. Next, I paused and enjoyed the peace all over again. I felt myself back there meditating as the sun rose.
As the day went on, reports of the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in South Carolina came in as I was also checking to find out details of the tropical storm that already made its way to and touched down in the Gullah/Geechee Nation. I went out to fulfill a project and came back to cooked. I glanced at the TV screen to see a city that welcomed me actually on fire. Yes, my people in Minnesota are in the streets and the buildings are burning because of the death of Brother George Floyd. I couldn’t stand there too long watching the flames without hearing the song “Ohio” start playing in my head. I thought of the bloody sixties and how this is another summer that will go down in the history books as one where Black blood ran hot in the streets including the blood of Brother Ahmaud Arbery. I thought of how the people had no time to think about whether or not they would die from infection from COVID-19 because we had to consistently try to find ways to stem off Black death from the virus of racism that has infected and affected America since the colonies began to form.
A mass amount of images flashed through my mind with bodies hanging from trees, guns in Black hands, Black people using their last breaths to say, “I can’t breathe” I heard now mingle with the verse “A whole lotta soldiers, I see them marching…” Which soldiers-the Deacons of Defense, military, or those of Erykah Badu’s song? Maybe all of them are clashing in the middle of a sea of Black folks blood spilling once again on North America’s soil in the midst of a pandemic, but not due to COVID-19. This is due to the continued onslaught of racism in all its forms.
Just as the entire global Black family takes some time to catch our breath after holding it to watch what would happen as states reopened and folks went out uncovered i.e. without masks all because of the thing that our enslaved ancestors also looked forward to-a holiday, more death came. Young Black people killed one another at parties and in communities as if they needed to assist with our global grieving and the emotional instability that the Black community is consistently faced with even when there isn’t a pandemic. Those deaths get ignored because folks have normalized so-called “Black-on-Black crime” since folks tend to kill those that they are in closest proximity to. Interestingly, ignoring the extreme numbers of white-on-white crime throughout the United States and around the world. The same way they are ignoring the deaths by virus as we are now inundated with the new news cycle that is distracting people away from paying attention to what the politicians are NOT doing for the people.
The consistent “waging the dog” (Check out the movie “Wag the Dog.) prevails as Black people are enraged and then depressed because another brother or sister has died at the hands and knees of cops. Folks are looking away from the cause of it all-systemic racism which has never provided equity nor equality to people of African descent in America. Folks are looking away from the human rights work that many of us have done and continue to participate in to bring about global change that not only allows Black and indigenous people to live, but to have a high quality of life that allows them to jog, walk, shop, and simply live safely. With that in place, we can breathe.
I pause. I take in fresh air. I give thanks. I can breathe. We take that for granted, but for Brother George Floyd and Brother Eric Garner, I won’t take it that way. Each inhale is for them and for their families. Each inhale is for the entire Black family to settle our collective heart and mind and get focused to strategize. Each time I run I do it for Brother Ahmaud Arbery. Each time I pray, it is not only for them and their families, but for Breonna Taylor and her family and community, the 7 folks shot protesting over her dead body, the numerous Black folks whose names we will never know that the police murdered brutally for simply being in the Black Panther Party and for people accused by someone Anglo pointing a finger in their direction or making a lying telephone call that one of us had kidnapped their children that they had killed themselves or that we were in a place doing something they they thought we shouldn’t do. I remember each one of the Black deaths caused and celebrated by white people.
The horrifying irony is that there are photos and videos of the recent murder of a black alligator on a golf course on Hilton Head Island, SC here in the Gullah/Geechee Nation going around the internet under which I have seen comments about how folks feel that alligator is symbolic of a Black person. That is why although it may have been one of the largest captured, it wasn’t simply returned to the wild in one of our preserves, it was killed on camera as people rode it and they laughed and looked on with their children. Those folks look like those in lynching photos where there were white people having picnics with their children and making sure that they had their children take photos next to the hanging and/or burning Black body. They often had trucks pull the bodies apart or skinned Black people in order to give out pieces of flesh as souvenirs.
As I thought of all this I recalled, the fetishism with Black death that I witnessed at a conference in Chicago when all it took was to name a session, “Black Death” and they needed and entire large ballroom to hold the audience of whites that poured into it to hear this topic. I sat there incensed that people were actually in this room presenting on different ways that Black people had died in America over time and how it was a Black person that was leading this session. He spoke in statistics and historical quotes as he had been “trained” to do while these academics sat and took notes and were not moved by the horror of this topic. I was the one person that stood up to speak out about how disturbing and inappropriate it was that sessions that spoke to the resilience and survival of people were in small tight spaces, but this was a session filled with grave watchers like buzzards on post and how I overheard people on their way to it happily discussing how they were looking forward to the session on Black death to only turn around and see white faces. To them this was a study, but to me this is an abomination!
The silence of white people filled the void between the handclaps of the few #woke Black folks that were also in this room and were stunned and offended by this topic. They attended like I did because this was a plenary that we could not believe would really be about our people dying. However, the title was not a “hook.” The discussion and presentations were about Black death in a myriad of forms and the majority white audience lauded over these Black people that were so willing to share this information with them. I questioned whether those skin folks would have been willing to be added to the statistics of Black death if it boiled down to fighting for us to live. I wonder if they are just somewhere now seeking another book deal when they finish documenting all the Black death of lynchings taking place at the hands and knees of cops and other racists during COVID-19. Where is their public outcry? In fact, do they ever cry when Black folks die?
To stop this train of thought at a more peacefilled station, I walk outside to my field and I pick fresh vegetables and give thanks for the lives of my ancestors. I hear them remind me of the many things that Black people survived and I know that this too shall pass. I pray that when it does we are the better because we realize we are stronger together. We need to link to one another to help each other live and breathe.
I pause. I inhale. I exhale. I give thanks. I keep thinking. GOD speaks through Facebook again and I see a photo of me in South Korea last year as I pause from a walk and I sit and meditate. I return to that moment and I give thanks for peace as I breathe in and then I stand up to walk on fighting for justice, equity, and human rights.