Today’s post is a guest post by activist and writer Emelda. She was so kind as to share her thoughts on the recent protests for support of Black Lives Matter, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and all who have lost their lives to police violence.
“Black rage is founded on blatant denial.
Squeezed economics, subsistence survival.
Deafening silence and social control,
Black rage is founded on wounds in the soul.”Lauryn Hill, Black Rage
We, who live on the margins, learn survival in America is at best, a minefield to maneuver. Our lives are precarious– moving, always, against barriers designed to force submission and suffocation of the spirit.
And now, as wounds erupt anew, I sit with the weight of lament and memory:
March 1991.The innocence of middle school life shattered watching one grainy video: Rodney King, legs kicking against concrete into night air. Fleshy brown skin pummeled mercilessly by four police officers.
Bearing witness to that futile struggle taught me the ways I experienced America would always differ from white classmates whose carefree existences didn’t include dodging blows from police or avoiding certain neighborhoods where people insist “you do not belong.”
You see, we are visible only through the prism of stereotypes– angry and out of control black women and girls or malicious criminals and thugs– never as fully realized human beings.
These past few weeks are a summersault of emotions– despair, fury and the exhaustion of generational trauma. I cried again today listening to Mumu Fresh (Maimouna Youssef), plead for answers through her song “Say my Name” (for Sandra Bland):
“If I should die tomorrow at the hands of the policeman and the papers say, hey, we’re going to call it as suicide, would you even question why?”
It is a statement meant to shatter fortresses of complacency.
There is a tendency in this country to sprint from our collective history, vehemently denying “the past” even as it greets us in the present. Refuting truth does not eviscerate it. None of this unrest will dissipate until America faces the ugliness within and calls out its root– white supremacy, a destructive ideology which, for centuries, has affected and infected every strata of society.
“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”Billie Holliday, Strange Fruit
George Floyd begged for eight minutes before his death to simply breathe. Eight bullets tore into the body of Breonna Taylor before she could utter a sentence. Ahmaud Arbery– chased, hunted relentlessly, and shot, for daring to run outside the confines of his community.
I return to these hard truths about where we are and have remained as a nation each time another beloved brother or sister is murdered before our eyes. Years ago, in an essay, I wrote each one of us is Sandra Bland.
If everyday folks allow the busyness of their lives to overtake a need for critical self reflection and questions (How do I benefit from white privilege? How am I complicit by remaining silent?), divisions will continue to mount. The seeds of change come forth through the steady tasks of unlearning, de-centering dominant narratives about black and brown folks, and listening before arrogantly assuming you understand.
King said, decades ago, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” As cities burn in states around the country, and black and brown Mamas hold our babies close, we wonder how much more of our pain, America, you must consume before you see us with your heart?
A FEW BOOKS EMELDA RECOMMENDS
Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color Andrea J. Ritchie (there is also a study guide which accompanies the book)
How to be an Antiracist Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
When they Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
Emelda is a loving wife, mama, creative, and believer seeking God anew in each moment. Although based in Baltimore, this daughter of a Honduran immigrant feels at home throughout the world.
She leads Pray with Our Feet, a community and podcast focused on faith, activism, and conscious parenting. Emelda also serves as the founder of Women Creatives Chat, a community centering wellness and empowerment for women of all artistic disciplines through events (both online and live), workshops, and mindful products and services.
Thank you, Emelda!
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Feature image courtesy of Maria Oswalt.