Cause I feel like my eyes saw too much suffering
I’m just twenty-some-odd years, I done lost my mother
And I cried tears of joy, I know she smiles on her boy
I dream of you more, my love goes to Afeni Shakur
Cause like Ann Jones, she raised a ghetto king in a war
And just for that alone she shouldn’t feel no pain no more
Cause one day we’ll all be together, sipping heavenly champagne
Where angels soar, with golden wings in thug’s mansion
-Nas, “Thugz Mansion” (2002)
Another generation. Another slew of riots. What are we fighting for?
Since the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, my feelings on the unjustified and increasing numbers of deaths on any life, and particularly on Black lives, hasn’t changed. Yet, I can tell that I’ve change as far as viscereal reactions go. I’ve morphed from expressing impassioned anger to worrisome thoughts to now complete fatigue in the last four years. And maybe this is what racists and closeted racists and abusers of the judicial system want from me. To be desensitized. I wrote a Facebook update that Florida had let us down when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Martin in 2013. In 2015, it has taken me days to post anything related to the deaths of other unarmed Black lives. Truthfully, I was even late to fully understanding the severity of Freddie Gray‘s injury, death and the anger of Baltimore’s citizens. Yet it would’ve been hard to just swipe it away while I was online, or to not click on video links that showed an American city nearly in flames. As I watched Black civilians exhibiting their frustration, I understood their pain but I wasn’t quite sure how to feel beyond that.
Rioting in your own city doesn’t solve anything on the exterior. To see a neighborhood, or city, engulfed by destruction and fire and for a time uncontrollable behavior, will always be truly one of the saddest images to come out of America. I was angry to see peaceful demonstrators interrupted by “agitators” and non-violent protestors succumbing to their anger in the worst way. Collectively, we’ll forever know this the expansive melee to be under the title of the #BaltimoreRiots.
I absolutely hated seeing Baltimore crumble but I didn’t necessarily feel detached from their pain. It was complicated. I again felt torn in wanting to support the cause for justice and the halting of police brutality against Black people, and their apparent choice of human flesh being the Black man. But I also was still healing from feeling as if a majority of Black men didn’t care about Black women. Black women and women of color, we march the streets in large numbers for the lives of gunned down Black men, but do Black men feel that same sense of loyalty when it comes to us? So many in the media and in real life continue to perpetuate colorism, favoritism and neglect in communities of color and women undoubtedly feel the harmful effects of it. It feels sometimes that Black men have betrayed Black women and we are still expected to be their guardian, puppy dog or practice omerta.
And what about the Black women and girls that have died at the hands of corrupt cops or been betrayed by an American justice system? Their lives matter too. Why hasn’t there been massive marches for Aiyana or Rekia? It’s extremely multi-layered and personal; my relationship as a Black woman to the Black man. Still, as the news reports carried on about the “unrest” of Baltimore, I softened because I also know that when residents willing tear down their own city, an imperative message has already fallen on deaf ears too many times. Not to be remiss to mention, Gray’s death was unique in that he experienced a severed spinal injury which remains a mysterious circumstance as he was in police custody at the time.
A riot is the language of the unheard –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
During those same days of reports airing footage of looting, cars burning and multiple showdowns between Black Baltimore civilians and the Baltimore police, my newsfeed was flooded by the same individuals that cared when tragedies like Freddie Gray’s death and incidents like the riots occurred. Others reacted just as much on cue and socially pretended as if nothing had happened. Again I saw virtual tongue lashings of my Black Facebook friends writing essay-like updates about Baltimore and schooling their White Facebook on how to practice tact and sensitivity in sad times like these. I was visited to click on link after link of more truthful reports where I could see the images and videos of Baltimore residents trying to protect the police from violent behavior, encouraging their fellow citizens to stay non-violent and the many that took it upon themselves to help clean damaged areas, such as that now infamous CVS Pharmacy location.
I also peeped once again, from the orbit that is the Black America editorial and I just knew that they indirectly asking themselves, “Why am I writing about this again?” Just weeks ago, the in cold blood murder of Walter Scott made national headlines. The still shot of officer Michael Slager firing at Scott made the cover of TIME magazine with the familiar call for peace of BLACK LIVES MATTER.
I felt myself being re-educated on why, despite my initial jaded feelings, that it remains essential, nearly indispensable, to discuss the unfair practices of authoritative figures and law enforcement which have led to the unnecessary deaths of Americans like Gray.
But I will be almost about another factor to why I was at first do drained. hate the propaganda agenda of the media as much as I hate to see a citizen so enraged that buildings get lit. I had enough of the media only caring when shit hit the fan. Baltimore, for decades, has had afflictions with the law and certain groups of people being belittled or undervalued. It was even superbly documented on the HBO series The Wire that deserved just as many Emmys or more as The Sopranos. I tried to not be petty or cynical about the coverage, but inside my head, I snapped. My inner irritated emoji crossed her arms and asked, “Where were these think pieces in 2014? Or 2013?” “Why did Freddie Gray have to die for you to care about Baltimore?” It’s the same damn cycle of jumping on the bandwagon. It’s like the media just sits around and waits for people to die, get hurt or disrespected. While too many of us have ourselves to blame and are our own worst enemies, I believe my petty thoughts have a point. The citizens of Baltimore will still have to rise and rise again months after the cable news channels and websites, not local to Maryland, have moved on to other lives gone too soon and politics gone mistrustful. Stop waiting for incidents to occur and care about them now if that is where your heart’s at before it’s too late.
Alas, I was concerned with where Baltimore was going. I wanted to see better days for a city I had never been to. Restored hope for a city where trust was broken. I emotionally stood in solidarity with them for I did not like this recent trend of which history scarily repeating itself. I had witnessed the Los Angeles riots of 1992 through my TV set. I was aware of the Baltimore riots of 1965 and 1968. And in 2001, a similar riot situation had taken over Cincinnati after the death of Timothy Thomas. Also the same week the 2015 Baltimore Riots took place, the South Asian country of Nepal was hit by a vast earthquake. The world was a terrifying place and all I could think of were two songs to console me: Bob Marley‘s “So Much Trouble in the World” and Nas‘ “Thugz Mansion” remix that intercepted a verse from the late rapper, and today viewed a before his time prophet of race and society in America, Tupac Shakur.
Once the riots subsided, just like a caterpillar, an uprising somewhat began. When the youngest prosecutor for a major American city, Marilyn Mosby, declared that criminal charges were filed against the 6 police officers that detained Gray that fateful April 12th, out of this horrifying storm, came a virtuous woman I had never heard of. Her meaningful words of “To the people of Baltimore and demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ‘no justice. No peace.’ Your ‘peace’ is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.
To those that are angry, hurt, or have their own experiences of injustice, at the hands of police officers, I urge you to channel the energy peacefully as we prosecute this case. I have heard your calls for ‘no justice, no peace’, however, your ‘peace’ is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of Freddie Gray.
To the ranking file officers of the Baltimore City Police Department, please know, that the accusations of these six officers are not an indictment on the entire force. I come from five generations of law enforcement” touched me and I knew touched the core of many. It was brave step forward to make the death of Gray not in vain. I was relieved for the city of Baltimore.
And truth be written, I have a brother, who is Black (born and raised like my sister, in the first of his childhood in Costa Rica). Though we are not close, I could only, only, imagined how heavy my heart would be if a cop or anyone didn’t think twice to pull a trigger and his life just fade away. I know my mother would be in perpetual bereavement and that is a sight and fact I cannot bear to accept. So with all that I’ve left on the this table this May 1st of 2015, I sign off on this stream of release with #JusticeForFreddieGray.
Dear momma don’t cry, your baby boy’s doin’ good
Tell the homies I’m in heaven and they ain’t got hoods
Seen a show with Marvin Gaye last night,
It had me shook. Drippin’ peppermint Schnapps, with Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke
Then some lady named Billie Holiday sang sittin’ there kickin’ it with Malcolm, ’til the day came
Little LaTasha sho’ grown. Tell the lady in the liquor store that she’s forgiven, so come home
Maybe in time you’ll understand only God can save us
When Miles Davis cuttin’ lose with the band
Just think of all the people that you knew in the past
That passed on, they in heaven, found peace at last
Picture a place that they exist, together
There has to be a place better than this, in heaven
So right before I sleep, dear God, what I’m askin’
Remember this face, save me a place, in thug’s mansion –Tupac Shakur