We watch open season on blackness
A parade of bullets turning two swift into a tombstone
Pass the footage around like it’s an NBA highlight
So no, I will not watch how a police officer turns
Another black body into a contortionist
A twig snapping
A hashtag that didn’t trend until too late
I’ll just wait for them to value white guilt over justice
And it will be history working in reverse
It will be history working into expected complacency
Asking me to apologize for breathing
And counting down when another 3 And A Half Minutes
Will auction off another pair of black lungs
On a podium
With a camera beneath
And a white man who is too god damn trigger happy
Being the reason we congregate yet again
To watch a lynching
To watch 1950 in slow motion
Then call it a different name
A mourning we’ve become all too familiar with
I almost didn’t know what to write. I keep fearing I’ll wake up and the words will disappear from my body out of grief. Most days, I don’t know what to do. Most days, I try to figure out what to do. But I am going to take this moment to speak transparently and say: This morning, I woke up to another black man murdered by the police and it seemed as though God decided to go missing.
This morning, I woke up at 5am and had a panic attack for the first time in a year. I spent five minutes on the edge of my bed crying, heaving, feeling like my body was rejecting all air in the room, feeling like all the air was escaping the room. This morning, I texted my best friend Tate. I asked him to tell me he is still safe, that he is still here, that he is still breathing. I texted Allen. I messaged Alyesha. I texted Tonya. I messaged Javon. The list can keep going. This morning, my family said they are scared for me, of how loud and black I am in every place that begs for silence. They threatened to no longer talk to me if I keep “placing myself in harms way” by practicing activism. This is their way of expressing fear that their daughter could be next. This is their way of trying to find some control in a world that is uncontrollable.
This morning, I am not okay but I am still here. I am still speaking. I am still posting on social media. I am still planning a course of action. I am still letting others lean on me. I am still teaching my allies. I am still going to a rally this evening. I am still taking moments to myself throughout the day. I am still practicing self care to the best of my ability. I am still surviving. But I am not okay because none of this is okay. There is no other name for this than the black condition: to maintain faith when everything points towards doubt.
What we are living in is not normal. I repeat. This is not normal.
Many of my black friends, around the country, text me every day letting me know they did not die. Many of my friends keep checking in every day to see if I’m still alive. This is not an overdramatic thing for them to do when being audacious enough to go outside in this skin gives someone else a license to kill us. We are living in a country where openly murdering black people at the hands of law enforcement is just another headline.
We are becoming desensitized.
We are living in a country where law enforcement officials are not being held accountable. We are suffering under the chokehold of systematic racism. We are watching a paradigm shift in thought that is volatile. Our country is reaching new tensions. We are all allowed to be afraid but I need to remind you, silence in these matters cannot be afforded, unless it is out of self care. But when the self care is done, we need to start taking action:
To white allies: I understand your hesitancy or feeling like not knowing what to say or that your desire to understand will inflict more pain, but please take advantage of the black people around you who are willing to educate you with an open heart. Additionally, while we appreciate the sympathy you feel towards the black condition, we need you to understand we don’t want sympathy — we want blackness to be respected, we want blackness to no longer be an excuse for execution, we want blackness to be advocated for. You cannot consume our culture and be silent. We are dying and we are in dire need of you to speak up. We are in need of your support while not overtaking our safe spaces to the point our voices drown. We need you to check your problematic friends, family, acquaintances, strangers. We need you to be present. We need you to be here. In the now. We know you didn’t ask for your privilege, we do not care you are privileged, we only care that you acknowledge the responsibility that comes with it and how you’re going to use it.
To non black POCs: The same goes for you. Anti-blackness exists beyond whiteness but has infiltrated your communities as well. We cannot afford to be divided when we are each a piece of a larger marginalized demographic. This is how a beast maintains control — through divide and conquer. Systematic racism is something that affects each and every one of us. We need to stand united. We need to stand in solidarity and support each other.
To my fellow members of the black community: You are allowed to practice self love and self care in whatever way you know how. You are allowed to say “not today.” However, we cannot let how tired we are be the noose which kills us. While I understand it is not our responsibility to educate our white and non black POC counterparts on the violence we have faced for decades, violence that has been in the media for decades, I encourage that we try and find space in our hearts to help those who want to understand to do just that. I am not saying go educate Donald Trump; I’m saying educate your sphere around you on the days you can.
Additionally, we cannot fight violence with violence. We cannot practice the same hatred we have been forced to endure for hundreds of years. I know it feels as if we are all moving slowly towards a slaughterhouse. I know it feels ridiculous that we have to practice patience and grace and love. But please remember, fueling hate with hate is how a bomb detonates, how this country will fall apart, how we will fall apart — it is counterproductive, it is counterintuitive. I am not saying do not be aggressive. I am saying love aggressively. That is where the revolution is. I am saying advocate aggressively for each other, not just black men, but for black women, black trans men, black trans women, black gay men, black gay women, black children — for every single member of community our community. That is where the revolution is.
To everyone: We need to do more than just make a social media post. We need to do more than watch the trauma as it unfolds in a video. We cannot live in the moment of a hashtag, of how many people liked some post about how angry we are. We need to hit the streets. We need to be at the rallies, protests, and marches but also be aware we cannot just live in those singular moments. While those spaces are critical and meant for healing, real change is the result of continual action. We need to be present at Black Lives Matter chapter meetings, in the spaces in which people are organizing how we can promote changes in legislation, we need to create safe spaces in which we can gather as community.
If you are not registered to vote, I need you to hop on this. We need to vote beyond just national elections but also in our local elections. We need to change the system from the ground up and that starts at home. We need to contact our local congressional representatives. We need to clog the fuck out of their voicemails to the point they have no other choice but to listen. It takes less than 5 minutes to call one, two, or even three numbers during our lunch breaks, when we are at home, on our way to work, or wherever. I know it is daunting to figure out what to say, at times, so I’ve created a script: “Hi my name is ________, I believe black life matters. I believe every person in this country should not live in a state of constant fear and violence. We have entered a state of crisis. Our police needs to be demilitarized, we need gun reform, we need our government and we especially need YOU to step up to the plate and initiate the necessary changes in legislation. We will keep calling until you do so.” Please. Take a small amount of time every day to leave a voicemail – to locate your local representative click here.
Beyond this, we need to make our government listen. What speaks to the government? Money. We need to hit them where it hurts. We need to make them pay attention by moving our money to black owned banks, by supporting black owned business; we need to support the POC economy and show our government and big corporations that we do not indeed need to rely on them (especially during seasons like Black Friday, Christmas, Labor Day, etc.). This will make our government bend to our will and make them realize our needs – when they realize their pockets are shrinking. Here, I’ve attached a list of black owned banks and businesses nationally we can all support:
We are living in a time where both fear and violence are running rampant; but, we are also living in a time where dialogue is more prevalent than ever. We need to take advantage of this moment. I know we are all horrified at what is happening around us but we cannot let it paralyze us. We are allowed to feel tired and frustrated and angry and hopeless; you are allowed to experience your grieving processes; you are allowed to process your trauma, but we cannot let it be the thing that kills us. What doesn’t kill us? Love. Does it sound corny? Yes, maybe, but “love is love is love is love is love.” And that is the truth. We all need open ourselves, open our energy, to elevate to a higher vibration in which we understand that we cannot change our system until we unite, on all fronts, and work together, doing as much as we can, to dismantle what is killing us from the ground up.
We are watching open season on blackness.
This is a mourning we should never have to become familiar with.
KiNG is a Los Angeles based contributor for AFROPUNK and Not Mad and is affiliated with Say Word Project, Answer LA, and The Container Yard. She is currently the youngest member of the 2015 Da Poetry Lounge Slam Team as well as the other half of dark pop/contemporary R&B/hip hop duo: KiNG BLACK.