During a time when COVID-19 disproportionately claims the lives of black and brown bodies… During the times when we are viewing video after video, news report after news report, of black and bodies have the life violently ripped from their bodies… I remember.
I remember my visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. I remember the anguish that filled my body as I traveled through its maze. But, I remember the hope and encouragement I felt when I thought about the spirit that resides in me. This is a reflection of my visit.
There is something about being in this space that is deeply haunting. As you walk in, you are immediately encountered by a sculpture. A sculpture of chained, naked black bodies anchored to a land they did not ask to come to. In the background, is the story of their capture and treatment while on this land. The violence, the cruelty, and the pain told in a three panel story.
As you continue along the path, you encounter a turn, which for me symbolizes the supposed turn that was supposed to happen for these African people. There was a clearing, green grass, and an eery silence. But, it does not last long, for immediately after turning, you are confronted with a memorial of a black body that was slain in (Alabama).
As you weave in and out throughout this maze, the list of names grows. The number of bodies increases, and when you hit the end of the path, the memorials go from being in the ground to slowly being lifted up. The further you travel, the higher the memorial until you are standing in a space where the stones, which to me is their bodies, are hanging over you.
The image is overwhelming. The memory is horrific. No longer dignified by the grave, if there is such a thing. Hanging lifeless, without movement for us to view like the spectators who gathered on those blood days of picnics and family gatherings.
So many names. So many bodies. So many lives. So many families destroyed. So many fortunes broken. An entire race desocrated by the inferiority and fear of another.
But, the journey doesn’t end. It continues with the building of a timeline. Individual stories told of their horrific demise and the irrational rationale. Rationales like having a man arrested for trying to stop an assault of his daughter. Or, simply standing around a neighborhood. Or, “frightening a white girl” Or, the worse yet, simply being black.
They were not allowed a voice to speak. They could not stand for their own justice. Even when proven innocent in court, the people of the land said they were guilty. They had no rights. They had no privileges. They had no property. They were always to blame, even when they were the ones wronged. And, if that was not enough, it was put on display. A public spectacle like a Sunday or Monday night football game for all to see.
Why did it take so many people to take out one man or one woman? Why was so many people necessary to immobilize one human being? I guess when we find the answer, we’ll be able to explain why it takes 20 and 30 and 40 rounds just to stop one teenage boy. Or, 4 or 5 police officers to bring down one man. I presume the answer lies in the fact that they weren’t just trying to stop a body. They wanted to stop a people. And, sadly, that’s just what they did.
They didn’t just take their lives. They took the voice of the old, so they raised their seeds to be silent. They told them to stand up for themselves was disrespectful, so they would rear their own to never speak up or stand up. They took their innocence, always presumed them guilty, so they too would believed there was no truth in their own words. Tell them to impregnate a woman is shameful, so he’d stay away from his own family. Burn down their businesses and destroy their work, so they would devalue and undermine anyone black or brown who resembles success. Place them in front of a crowd to punish them for their wrongdoing, so they would not be afraid to publicly punish ourselves.
It was not just a body that was destroyed. It was a will: a will of strength. A will of resistance. A will of community. A will of family. To make them always the tail and not the head, to make them lose faith in one another, to force them to discredit, dismember, and disenfranchise one another, show them just how inferior they are.
But, despite the weight of emotions I feel, the one that is the strongest is hope. From the ground I hear the cry. From the earth I feel the spirit. It is a spirit that says don’t look at just what they did to us or how they treated us. Look at the why? WE WERE TOO STRONG FOR THEM! Despite all their best efforts, they could not stop us! They knew they were no match for the genetic code the Creator placed in side of us. Our bodies were built Ford tough. Our hands made to do God’s work. Our minds were of the sharpest and most gifted, and our hearts beat faster and stronger than the mighty lion.
WE, BLACK AND BROWN people, have a spirit that’s unlike any other! A spirit that says YOU CAN HATE ME NOW, BUT I WON’T STOP NOW! We have a tenacity that says I know why it takes so many of you to my one me… I know why you go through such lengths to terrorize me… I know why you to practice such extremities… You’re afraid of me, and RIGHTFULLY SO!!! I AM VIOLENT! VIOLENTLY BRILLIANT! VIOLENTLY TALENTED! VIOLENTLY POISED! VIOLENTLY CREATIVE! VIOLENTLY SKILLED! AND VIOLENTLY MASTERMINDED!
I know why you do what you do! It’s because you’re afraid of me! And rightfully so. If I EVER FULLY embody the blood, the veins, the neurons, the spirit that permeates inside of me, I would control the table, and I would be in charge, and YOU would have to ask for my permission. I would be UN-STOPPABLE! Nothing can stop me when I’m all the way up!
So be afraid!!! Be afraid of the excellence that is blackness! Be afraid of the beauty that is blackness! Be afraid of the boldness that is blackness! Be afraid of the backbone that is blackness! Be afraid of the fight that says
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
So, hit me with your best shot. Because you can’t stop me! I WILL RISE! Because I remember!
#quriousthoughts #criesfrommyheart #iremember