This morning I came to you with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes. This morning, instead of saying “Happy Birthday,” I said, “They keep killing us.”
You gave me your shoulder to cry on and we had a conversation about the murdering of Altson Sterling and Philando Castile—two Black men that were killed by police officers. We both didn’t have the heart to watch the video of Alston Sterling as he was pinned down by two officers and shot six times. (The footage of Mario Woods being killed by what looked like a firing squad was enough for me.) I did watch the Philando Castile video as a police officer aggressively pointed his gun into the car after he shot Castile four times. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, recorded the interaction and said that Castile informed the officer of his licensed gun and was reaching for his wallet for his ID. When the officer lied about why he shot Castile, Reynolds corrected him and replied that Castile was following orders, the officer was silent.
Reynolds’ four-year-old daughter was in the backseat watching all of this. After being placed in a patrol car Reynolds finally broke down, her daughter consoled her. Four years old.
I think about Reynolds’ daughter and Sterling’s son, who broke down during the press conference after the murder of his father. To be the child of a Black parent is stressful as well. You worry about us and we worry about you. We are also thinking of how we have to negotiate our identities in the different worlds we live in with the tools (eg. manners and self-respect) you gave us.
Our silence sometimes doesn’t tell the full story about how we really feel. Its like after reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, I wanted to hear Samori’s (Coates’ son) voice. His silence and tears were noted, but it leaves me wondering how Samori processed and is processing the world around him.
During the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray, a woman told me to guard my heart from the troubles of the world. I looked her at with annoyance; she is probably the type who thinks the meek shall inherit the earth. How are things supposed to change if we do that? How are we supposed to educate and inform and educate each other if we are blocking out what is killing us physically, mentally and spiritually? But now, I am realizing that we have to find a balance of the information we get and how we internalize it. I refuse to be one of those people who ignore these daily injustices, but there is a health component that needs to be addressed when we become aware of them.
Each instance varies. I can’t say just pray on it because sometimes the heart and mind are so full there is no focus to do so. I tried. Sometimes its running three miles like Vivian Green. Sometimes its blasting 2Pac or Kendrick. However, a conversation and some tissue can also go a long way. The ability to release pain, sadness and fear through dialogue and not be judged for saying what’s in the heart is priceless.
So Dad, I just want to say thank you for earlier. Thanks for allowing me that time and space. I really didn’t expect anything different from you, but I just wanted to say I appreciate you. However, due to extrajudicial killings, a lot of Black children (young and old) are without their fathers today and although tomorrow isn’t promise, I am thankful for being one of the “lucky” ones.
Happy 60th Birthday! (Damn B, you getting old.)