I waited a day to write this. I waited to see if anyone would remember. I searched Google. The local news in Birmingham didn’t forget. It was the 58th anniversary. 58 years of flowers that could have bloomed, yet cut too soon, gone too soon. The youngest among them, Carole Denise McNair, only 11 at the time of the bombing would have turned 69 this year. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Robertson, all 14 at the time, would have been 72. There lives were cut short because of hate. And 58 years later, only 3 sites, 2 of them, local news sites remembered. These are times when words don’t come. Yet for the sake of history, these are times when words are all we have, since their story, their history, are cut from books that should have their stories. We still live in times of hate, where lives so fragile, are cut so soon, with so many gone too soon, that we fail to remember where the sun set to soon. Yet their memories, even their stories of flying and sailing away to soon, to a place, to love that replaced hate, something so unfamiliar to date, is the keep I choose to remember in this space. Their lives may have been short, their deaths even quick, but none of that was in vain, Toni Morrison wrote in her book ‘Remember.’ I agree. I so agree.
I listened back in May as one of the survivors from the Tulsa massacre testified before Congress. She was clear in her demands. That Congress recognize the massacre that occurred in Tulsa now before she departs. She also noted she has been waiting for this moment all her life. The words so eloquently spoken by Viola Fletcher kept me broken for awhile. She was only 7 when the massacre occurred. There were dead bodies everywhere. Places and neighborhood that used to bring memories of joy were torn apart by an angry mob all because the inhabitants of those places were black. 100 years later, Ms. Viola remembers that day vividly. She remembers the violence, Black men being shot. She remembers frightening sights, black bodies lying in the street. She remembers screeching sounds, of airplanes and people screaming. She remembers the rioting, black business burnt to ground. She also remembers quietness, though others may be silent and quiet about Tulsa, the burden of that painful day lingers. For 100 years Ms Fletcher has re-lived the massacre in her mind over and over again. A burden she carried for 100 years.
Though our country may have forgotten about Tulsa she stated, she cannot forget. To have survived to tell this story 100 years later is a monumental task. 300 Black people were killed and another 10,000 were left homeless. Greenwood was destroyed by the attack that was launched on May 31, 1921. And the survivors want one thing and one thing only, justice. They lived so we never forget what happened in Tulsa 100 years ago. They lived so we never forget that Black lives have always fought for justice for what just is. They lived so we remember Tulsa. Remember that this too is this country’s history, a painful one, but one nonetheless that demands to be told and retold for also long as time remains. But most of all, they lived so all us never forget that Black Lives Matter. That’s what I am hoping for. That Viola and the other survivors of this massacre will get the justice they deserve for Black Lives and properties and lands and opportunities that mattered. Keep fighting for justice for Tulsa.
The four top stories on NPR this morning were on gun violence. Three of them were on police violence on minority lives, black lives, black men, a teen, Adam, who was only 13 and in 7th grade. Despite what they say, his last acts where his hands up in the air. Then in an instance he too became a name we add to the air. A familiar stance. We have been here before too and once again we say his name not for fame but because his life, like the lives of all God’s children mattered despite the trauma another mother, another family, another community encounters.
There is a virus that is spreading as fast as wildfire. The name is racism and the victims are minorities, black lives, black men, black boys in the hands of those sworn to protect them. It sickens me as a black mother. It keeps me hypervigilant even though my black boys are only babies. I see their smiles this morning, all three of them. I listen to their empty banter about food on the floor and whether it’s still safe to pick it up and eat. I watch as they play with each other, while eating and shudder for what tomorrow holds, whether their future would be whole. It’s the same helpless, restless thoughts that continues to consume and frighten every black mother I know raising black boys in America today. This virus has left all of us vulnerable, all of us helpless, all of us restless, all of us ready to become resilient, and all of us in desperate search of ways to usher healing from this vicarious racial trauma that inflicts its trauma in our lives in a continuous manner. Healing is the only thing that we want. Not because we can bring an end to exposures from racism or racial traumas but because we can and want to take ownership of the future we want for our children. One where they will be free to be and live as children, as boys, and men, with black lives that matter. Its an ambitious ask. I know. But we have to become bold for this transformative healing. It’s may also seem trivial our hope for healing but it’s the only thing that seems to matter so no mother feels a hole for their child who deserves to be whole. It’s my ask for today. Keep demanding for healing from this trauma for us by us.
How do we heal when lives are cut too soon?Remain calm when lives seem forever doomed? When do we start to usher healing, insist on its presence, demand its existence? Is it when we plead for our lives? Is it when we say we are afraid or when you remind us that we should be? Is it when we wear uniforms or drive cars with visible forms? Is it when we serve our countries or expect our countries to serve us? Will that ever happen? To hear the tears in his voice, the fears through the noise. To hear another mother plead for a son gone to soon is becoming insane in a country where guns are used too soon. So when will all this end so healing can begin.
I yearn for the days, we mend. Days our ways bend towards justice and our dignity towards freedom. Humanity demands that we stay hopeful for such a day when you and I do not have to be hyper vigilant as we gather once more for yet another vigil for a life gone to soon. When will healing arise in this place, in this space, for a people committed to ways that are more than just what is. I ask because I’m tired. Drained, emotionally, worn out. All this never ending pain, always seems to end in vain. If it’s not the needless deaths from a pandemic that we could have controlled, then it’s the endless deaths from a violent pandemic we fail to control. What about our children? How do we protect them from all this and at the same time remind them that they are our better days, our brighter future, even though we expect them to keep their guard up and remain vigilant.
I don’t have any answers but I want healing so deep that it can only be love. Love for you, love for me, love for humanity that sees a human in things, like when a child holds a toy, or some teens blast their music or like when our hands are held up or we cry and say that we can’t breathe. This love is the necessary air we all need from the weight of this continuous racial violence which continues to suffocate though we breathe. There is a Black ant crawling on my floor. It’s see the shadow from my hand and darts away as fast as it can to the nearest space for safety. I imagine lives like this ant. Nothing can protect you when hands are raised up high to destroy you. You who belong to a people, a place, a space, a community.
You are also worth fighting for, no matter what they say or do to diminish your worth. You are more than deserving of every breath that is in service of your humanity. You are a life force worth celebrating whether they see it or not and every encounter does not deserve to end in a count that should never be. No encounter should include another life gone too soon. No gaze of us, whether when we seem aimless, should end as if we are nameless. We are not. Is this healing possible? They may think we chant aimlessly. But even their aim is lessened when we chant even louder that Black Lives Matter. It’s a simple three letter word that reverberates this need for healing. Something that we demand for today, tomorrow and so long as we have breathe. Healing is the justice we seek to keep for a world that refuses to just see. This one is for Daunte. Give him justice.
When the church gives you something to feel and think about, it’s a valuable thing. Take for example, our visit to Saint Matthew the Apostle, our church yesterday. Due to the pandemic, we could not celebrate Christmas at our church as we would. But during our private baptism ceremony yesterday, I was reminded about why we loved Saint Matthew’s so much. Unlike other Catholic Churches, our true being is fully represented in church always. It’s haunting, in a genuine way, the way you are fully immersed in the church, in its celebration and in it’s community. The parish works hard to make us all feel like a community and we are truly one. Take for example, the depiction of baby Jesus, his mother Mary, Joseph and the three wise men. They looked like me.
It’s one of those stunning sights you only see in Saint Louis. Our church finds it own unique way to express our being and showcase what God actually symbolizes, the image and likeness of all humanity, however you choose to define it. The business of representation is a shared activity that everyone, including the church should participate in. That a church, a Catholic Church, would burrow as deeply as it can to showcase how black lives, black representation matters in a year full of impediments for black lives is extremely hopeful to me. Keep this representation in mind.
The other day my husband shared a message he got from the child of one of his patients. It simply read, ‘thank you for saving my dad’s life. You are a hero.’ My husband is a hero to me every single day. The stories he shares, especially the near death ones with some of his patients are simply inspirational. He never toots his own horn. In fact if he reads this post, he may tell me to delete it as he ‘HATES’ accolades. But I wanted to take the time to write briefly about him because he deserves all the praises for what he does every single day. He will never ask for the spotlight. That’s not his nature. He is selfless with the care of his patients and I am in awe always of his dedication to them.
Take for example this past Wednesday he got home around 8pm (he left the house around 7am), took his night shower, ate his dinner and got paged that a patient was arriving at the hospital. After a couple of minutes he logged on to his laptop see what was happening I guess with a brain imaging and then he muttered, I have to go in. It was close to 9:30pm. I loathe every time he has to go in, especially at night because at night he is just a black man driving his car, not a doctor or anything. He left, I prayed Psalm 91 over his life then slept off.
When I work up around 2am to breastfeed baby, he was home sleeping and I was elated. Another peaceful night or so I thought. The next morning he was up around 6:30am getting ready to go back to work and he casually shared he was pulled over on his way home by a police officer and given a ticket for speeding. I said were you speeding, he said yes as he was tired after performing the surgery on his patient and he wanted to get home to sleep. But the kicker for me was that the police officer called another police officer as back up and so there were now two police cars behind his car. He said he placed his hand on the dashboard the entire time and complied with all their instructions. The first police car that pulled him over was driven by a white police officer. The second police car that later joined him was driven by a black police officer. The white police officer stayed behind in his car after speaking to him to run his plate and proceed to write the ticket. But the black police officer who drove the second police car approached his car afterwards and spent sometime talking to him. He was in awe that he was talking to a black surgeon as he shared he is not used to seeing any. He even thanked my husband for what he does to save the lives of his patients and my husband thanked him for what he does on the streets as well. Their exchange was pleasant, stunning and full of humanity because they saw themselves in each other.
When people say black lives matter, it’s because of stories like what my husband shared. What if and it’s a big what if, this night did not end peacefully? What if the second police car was driven by a black police officer? What if I didn’t pray Psalm 91 every night he goes out? It doesn’t matter whether you are a doctor, whether you save lives, whether you do it in the morning or in the middle of the night, none of that matters if you are black. Black Lives Matter, police reform, is forever urgent and it’s something neither I nor you can ignore especially now given this election. It is time for engaged directed action on this issue, not idle wishful speculation. So vote. Vote for black lives. Vote for black lives that save lives. Vote until everyone realizes how black lives matter. Vote until everyone is wakened and alert to all the black lives that matter. Black lives are not gifts to humanity, the exchange between my husband and the black police officer proves this. Black lives are a necessity for humanity. Vote for black lives, it matters and quite frankly saves lives.