Keep the legacy of Mary Turner!

They called her Mary.

19 years old Mary.

I imagine she was happy.

Pregnant and happy.

Preparing for new life.

Until, the life she knew was lynched.

Killed, before they could experience, new life together.

I imagine she was wild.

Death will make anyone wild.

She feared nothing.

Feared no one.

Prepared to live.

Ready to die too.

For a love gone so soon.

A life cut too soon.

Then they did the unthinkable.

Wild men like beasts, killed Mary.

Crushed to death the baby with their boots.

If these words are wild.

Her death was wild.

A wild struggle for life.

All because she dared to speak.

Even now, she dares to speak.

Till madness becomes visible.

Like a knowing, so deep.

Mary Turner: A silent protest against mob violence sculpture by Meta Warrick Fuller. Museum of African American History, Boston & Nantucket.

Who gets remembered by history, how and why is how I choose to close out Black History Month, 2022. Mary Turner’s story is all I want to keep. Despite the circumstances surrounding her death, she was a woman; she was eight months pregnant and killed for speaking out against the men that murdered her husband. Only to keep her silent, she paid a price for speaking out. She faced a violent mob, and died fighting back. Black women like Mary Turner have died living lives inseparable from the act of speaking truth to power. The story of a pregnant woman killed for talking back, has direct links to what Audre Lorde once noted that our silence will not protect us, not when we were never meant to survive. And for the most part, history has also forgotten her. Yet, her defiant spirit refuses to be silent. Like wildness, refuses to be tamed, prepares to stay monstrous too, so long as we never forget the ultimate price she paid for visibility. The story of Mary Turner continues to bear witness to the visions of invisibility that even today’s society would rather we embrace. For so long, so many Black women around the country have struggled and perserved to be a voice, speaking as loud as they can, for whatever cause they hold dear. Speaking and becoming visible as black women, challenges all the dominant society knows. Mary Turner’s legacy instructs us, all black women to speak, even if it kills us. We were never meant to survive. Even as they adjust the template of who gets to be visible or not, speak. Even as they argue whether our experience counts or not, speak. Even as they question credentials, set arbitrary rules, or try to diminish all that you are, speak. And speak, not in language of gratitude or struggle, but to leave a mark that leads to their madness.

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