My grandma, the matriarch of our family and the strongest woman I’ve ever known, died almost five years ago. I remember all of us gathered in her living room, just before the limousines would take us to her funeral. We were dressed in all white, just as she would have wanted. We were daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, grandchildren; the scene a pristine poster for the bonds of kinship and familial love.
I looked around the room, and saw us all there in our matching white outfits, with matching tears in our eyes. We all wanted her back. But we all needed something different. No two of us mourned the same. We were descendants of the same upbringing, same bloodline and background, but as different as we were alike.
For each of us, our grief was our own.
And it had to be that way, for us to survive. I watched a cousin with white pants barely sagging and earrings glinting from his ears; an uncle in a white, too-tight pressed suit; aunts in white dresses ranging from ankle-length to “showing some thigh.” Nephews laughing too loudly, nieces never saying a word. We were all there as survivors, together, the same and different. Each one of us living a unique version of the same shared experience.
Today, as Black people, we must let our grief and our celebration, our individual experience, be our own. Because given the voice to speak our own way, we all have something distinct to say about our collective history and future:
Outrage on The Front-Page/ Ayoinmotion
The pain never goes away.
It seeps through like blood running down from a wound and this wound is deep.
So deep, that the blood trickles and runs just like I do.
You see for some of us we know the pain like its friendship,
but for others it’s marriage with divorce an impossibility.
So, I have to wonder, how does heaven deal with an overflow of souls arriving before their time?
Way ahead of schedule because they were victims of the evil that men do.
It’s hardly breaking news that the value of black lives is in tatters.
With the release of the newest viral video, the anger spirals.
We pick up placards calling for justice because we are tired of living in a hospice,
I mean living in a country where the authorities stay asleep
to the fact that parents are planning their children’s wakes.
No disrespect but I don’t need y’all telling me to stay woke.
I am not in a coma.
Our dead bodies are not meant to be exhibited like a gallery at the MOMA, this is real life!
We protest in anger at those meant to protect and serve,
because them hunting us is really nothing new, just a sad precedent.
It’s backward, like watching the secret service kill the president.
And the media, well they swarm around the scene like a honeycomb with bees.
You see them running commentary on the battles between both sides, its feels like a game.
And in games, they call plays. And plays, well they are scripted.
And in this one everyone plays their role so well, even the grand jury delivers the same line of not guilty.
When the glove fits, they still acquit. When there’s video, they still don’t convict.
Our outrage is just a story on the front-page and we need to do more than just talk if we want change.
We can’t move on because Erica Garner can’t.
We can’t move on because Diamond Reynolds can’t.
We can’t move on because the family of Sandra Bland can’t.
I say her name because although we empathize deeply,
grief is not a friend that shares your couch, it’s more like a lover that cuddles with you in your arms.
Waking you up like insistent snoring or sirens at 3am, you don’t get to run away from grief.
After each protest, we go back to the cycle of living our lives.
Like we did when Amadou Diallo died.
Like we did when Eric Garner died.
Like we did when Oscar Grant, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died.
Their names reeled off like a film, only that, in this real life. What good is a wave of outrage without sustained action? So, join me in running, whether you are black, white, or any color under the sun. We should all be running, not away from, but to the issue. We can’t keep treating police brutality like a substitute teacher when it is in fact the Principal.
Ayoinmotion is a Nigerian-born and Flint, Michigan-raised artist, poet, artivist, and writer with an undeniable sound and unique aesthetic. His new poetic short film on police brutality, Outrageonthefrontpage can be viewed in full at ayoinmotion.com. He is NYC-based with a very active artistic and social commentary perspective on display via @ayoinmotion on instagram.
Recognize/ Melody N. Johnson
To be of the first and the last
makes the horrors of the past
a lesson in knowledge of self.
From the perspective of
blackness as being a divine existence
trapped in a mortal world
of fear and disparity,
a mere drape of history.
Melanin is the badge
of the Alpha,
the strength of the Omega,
the forerunner of humanity.
So, smile black child.
You are great.
Your skin absorbs the sun.
Your hair generates and receives
energy that spirals throughout the multiverse.
In you is the voice that brought forth all.
The keeper of breath,
the High Spirit of Life.
You were the first.
You will be the last
Melody N. Johnson is a poet and student from Tennessee. She is a woman full of dreams and hopes, an individual trying to find her path. She aspires to be more while believing she is enough.
Say It Loud/ Busang Seitebaleng
“Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice;
I say the darker the flesh, the deeper the roots.”
Tupac Shakur, Keep Ya Head Up
Growing up, my generation was sold the idea that we were special, that we were the generation that would stand for, and define Black Excellence. We were taught that racism was White sin on Black bodies. But we wouldn’t have to worry about all that, because we’re free– born free.
The idea of a colour-blind society was so deeply ingrained in us, that we started to believe it. By not seeing colour, we were negating generations of racial oppressions, segregation, and genocide. And we’ve perpetuated this lie, bottled up the grief; the anger; the hate, piling it on until we were full– and it started to seep.
We hold the fate of the next generation in our hands, and if we teach them to be colour-blind, we’re setting them up for failure. The colour of your skin says more about you than you realise. It says as much as the eyes, the curl of your hair, and how your tongue bends when you say certain words. Colour is part and parcel of identity, and if we teach our children not to see colour, we teach them to deny identity, theirs and others’. In order for us to heal from the hurt of our past, and ensure it isn’t repeated in the future, we must teach our children to embrace their race:
Teach them to wear their blackness or whiteness, or yellow, or red, as a badge of honour. And teach them understanding, and tolerance of all; teach them it’s possible to be different and still live together. Teach them the roots of their people, their histories and turmoils, strife, and victories, and teach them to be proud. Teach them it’s okay to be angry when someone belittles your people, and that it’s fine to react when a reaction is justified, but do not find yourself guilty of teaching them the superiority of your race, as there is no such thing. Oppression is born from ignorance and arrogance.
I was taught to embrace my blackness, not in spite of other races, but in celebration of all our differences and recognition of all our similarities:
I am Black every day of my life. I was born Black, and I suspect I’ll die Black. Every now and again I might be a shade darker or a shade lighter, but I’m never Not Black, and it’s my pride and the pride of my people. But that’s not all I am. I once heard someone say that the heart of a man will take him a lot further than the shade of his skin or the curl of his hair. That spoke volumes for Black Excellence: Black is beautiful and will always be, but it’s made beautiful from within. And once we teach ourselves to mourn our past, and celebrate our Blackness, we can look forward to a colourful future; not a colour-blind one.