Boys smiling together. In search of twigs, chasing birds, basking underneath tall trees, with their cool breeze. You can’t stay here forever. I wish. Forever here, stay, can you?
It feels good to step away. Remembering to rest again. All it does, like the green on trees, will make you seek new ways. I am leaning on light. Leaning on green blending with skies so blue. We are on our way, to a place where cows, brown and white graze as they should all day. Trees tall and erect, do it better than me. Not because they know their roots. Not because they know that which keeps them erect. No branch, no leaf, no green is out of place. They only know light. Flowing through rivers born near mountains. They know grace too. Ask them how, and they will show why being here matters. They teach us how to rest. Today, I belong to them again.
Many times we begin and start, a new day, a school year, time again. Many times, we were bitter, sad, joyful, glad again. That this time, this year, this day, ends, just as we prayed it would, is the bittersweet, joyful thing, I hope greets you this time, this year, this day again and again.
My heart still bleeds for Uvalde. But I am thankful for today, this time. Hug those you love.
I have been numb since last night. Trying to make sense of unrecognizable children, parents giving DNA samples, the horror within grounds that are supposed to teach and not kill will keep you numb. I am still at loss of words even as I try to make sense of what happened in Uvalde with words. We were just here last week. Just here asking anyone who come to this space if for a second to keep Buffalo in mind. Keep track of empty promises. Keep even how we collectively make sense of lives gone so soon. To think some of the graves are not even cold, keeps me numb. Some of the dead from before warned us about this failed state we call ‘We the people.’ This isn’t is about we or the people or the rights you think belong to you because you live in this moment, this phase we call life. I have seen chickens die, in thoughtful ways than the children at Uvalde. I have seen birds live and die with dignity than 4th graders and their teachers in Uvalde. I have even seen ants be treated with compassion, worms too with love, than children who lived and died as children, our greatest treasures because of our failure to act.
This is more than a fight for life. Guns and people are killing people with guns. The sum of us had it right. We have been socialized into becoming a society where shooting in schools is normal. The same goes for shooting at the grocery store, shooting at a church, shooting at a movie, even shooting of our neighbors simply because we have the right to bear arms. Our systems of rights, the one focused on guns, is the beginning of our downfall as a people. We can never be for and with people, if we believe in rights to kill people. That’s what we do everyday when we do nothing.
We did nothing ten years ago after Sandy Hook. We did nothing 10 days ago after Buffalo. We cannot in good faith do nothing after Uvalde. 19 parents will go home once again without a chance to say goodnight to their children. So pardon me, but I am angry that we live like this. Angry because I live in a system that continues to allow this to happen. Angry because we are traumatized and retraumatized everything another shooting occurs. Angry because empty promises are not enough. Angry for our children who deserve the right to be children and not face school drills focused on mass shooting. Angry as a mother, a teacher, a human being for the way we continue to treat human lives worse than dogs. We cannot shut up and accept this. We have a right to fight for we the people. Otherwise the next shooter will come along. He or she will bear those guns again and we will find ourselves here once more, numb to what we keep allowing. Uvalde could have been prevented. Buffalo too and certainly Sandy Hook.
I want to breathe free and live and not die by guns that I do not bear. I deserve that right too. To not bear arms, and still live. We have ignored this hidden wound for so long that maggots are now coming out of the carnage we brought on ourselves. The pain inflicted by guns is real. Ask any of the parents in Uvalde right now. Ask anyone in Buffalo. Ask those in Sandy Hook. Ask those in Columbine too. Truth and healing is what we all need right now. And the truth is, we are a failed state if we continue to live by guns. Otherwise what kind of country allows children to die in a senseless way. What kind of country allows people to die at grocery stores too. We the people or we the guns!
What I know is, guns are bad. They have always been bad. Always been the downfall of life. And the time to act against guns is now. Enough is beyond enough. My heart is broken. It palpitates everything another shooting occurs like today. The realization that nowhere is safe sinks deeply in my soul. Not when schools are not safe. 21 dead again. Not when grocery stores are not safe. 10 dead before. Not when churches are not safe. 9 dead before that. Nowhere is safe when guns remain all we know, all we cling too, like Jesus dying on a cross. Even he lived and died not by guns, not by senseless death, and certainly not by those who cling to inhumanity for humanity sake. This isn’t a gathering of words for the sake of words. No words will do when people continue to meet their graves in senseless ways. Just brace for impact or when these guns come knocking at your door. Even your prayers won’t do. Unless we collectively act against guns.
Memories like from this weekend, sink deeply into my soul. Good people are rare. Good food too. A belly full of laughter from boys cheerful with their joy, is forever etched in my memory. Black boy joy surrounded by grey elephants is truly magical. I am walking into this week full of thanks for being among people so good, boys so delightful too, for whom memories of doing together will forever linger.
‘So there are no models. Create from scratch. Checkout everything for health or disease. Know then that revolution begins with self, in the self. You make false starts because of the models you use. Ask questions instead. Everything is incompatible with those that believe in we the people. Reject the opinions of those who love to explain us to us. Reject all notions of roles not committed to us. We got time. Mouth won’t do it. Neither would haste, urgency or stretch-out-now insistence. Not when a revolution, so needed for us is here.’
That’s what Toni Bambara said in Black Woman. It’s my mood for the rest of the year.
I sat through my first pre-commencement graduation at Saint Louis University today. There were many many highs and tearful moments. Some made me smile and others brought tears to my eyes. Imagine working so hard for your degree, even knowing what you will do upon graduation, just for the Lord to call you back home. I cried. No parent should ever bury their child. I sat through my first post-humous graduation too.
Seeing many of my now former students receive their diplomas also brought a bright smile to my face. We all did it. There were no models. Every single one of them persisted on their own. It’s my hope that they keep persisting beyond today and to the rest of their lives. Congratulations class of 2022.
Trying to make sense of Buffalo will make you question the meaning of life. Make you wonder whether we will ever get through this. That even grocery shops are not safe simply because of the color of your skin. No where truly is safe anymore. All I keep wondering is whether these deaths will mean anything to anyone. Clearly nothing may come out of this except empty promises and broken dreams until the next attack where more empty promises become like air, invisible, meaningless. Lives keep getting murdered senselessly that even a rest won’t do. Keep Buffalo in mind.
We walk like lions, unafraid.
Stroll like kings and queens through sunrise, unending.
Someone of us have histories, unknown.
Some stories by moonlight, untold.
Some of us sing songs, unrecorded.
Some dance around masquerades, unrecognized.
Some of us carry weights, unbearable.
Some march for rights, unequal.
Some of us remember names, unnamed.
Some sound horns for them, unbroken.
We gather now together, for paths unfinished. Telling stories still unreal.
Of people, and places still unsung, still unseen.
Of how they strolled like lions, free and unforgettable.
This one is in honor of Ernie Barnes painting which just sold this week at Christie’s auction for $15.3 million dollars, money I wish he saw in his lifetime. Still I’m inspired by this story as it reminds me of why what you do today matters. It’s for the legacy you are leaving behind for tomorrow. So again, do what makes you smile. Words, art, do it unafraid. Do it whether unknown, unseen or uncelebrated. History will celebrate you one day. History will tell your story if you don’t story your story today. I keep all this things because I want to get ahead of the story it will tell. I want to tell it my way. That I lived like the woman in the red strapless dress in Ernie Barnes painting. I lived and danced to the rhythms of my life, unafraid, undeterred, heck even unknown. But I lived my way, unfettered, unforgettable, with every single thing I choose to keep.
I keep wondering too why this painting would evoke this more today.
Maybe it was the dancing. Every Friday and Saturday evening. A girl in dark red strapless dress, gyrating her body to good times. A man in blue pants, moving as if filled with the Holy Ghost. I imagine these were good times at the sugar shack. Big daddy Rucker playing music as if the world is coming to an end. A woman in a blue dress and red shoes swings her hips to all the blues she feels. This dancehall isn’t a dream. I remember once stepping in a club like this in Philly, surrounded by black and brown lives dancing to music that moves your soul. I know this feeling of joy. Spirit-filled moments like this are rare. I’m glad it’s frozen forever even if for a moment at the sugar shack. I am glad I am freezing it for myself too, even if through words I keep, unafraid.