Black in America

All posts tagged Black in America

Warrior Women

Published August 10, 2015 by hrhdana

“I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.”
Malcolm X

On Saturday Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford interrupted Bernie Sanders at a rally in Seattle. As he prepared to take the mic the women jumped on the stage and demanded the right to speak. Sanders ceded the stage to the women. Marissa went on to give a passionate speech about the Black Lives Matter movement. She said she wanted to talk about how racist Seattle is but some in the crowd had already done that for her with their jeers and screams of, “arrest them.” Really? Arrest them?!!  With EVERYTHING going on right now people actually called for the arrest of these two women for grabbing the mic at a rally. Arrest them? How positively clueless.

I watched the internet explode. A day that was supposed to be filled with remembrances and lessons learned from the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson was completely derailed by a bevy of clueless allies who didn’t get it and a gaggle of scared Black people who wanted these women to be more polite. There were copious tears for Bernie. “He’s been so good to us.” “He is the only candidate who cares about us and our issues.” “Why attack an ally?” And my personal favorite, “Bernie must have been so frightened. It was like an assault.”

housewives-roll

Here’s my take on things..
Bernie is the one constantly mentioning how he has fought for civil rights all of his life. I mean seriously, it should be part of his name if we counted the frequency with which he and his supporters use this as his claim to fame. The REASON Black people should vote for Bernie is that he cares about “our” issues. If this is true then he wouldn’t be so caught off guard by the passion in the two interruptions he has experienced. Sanders responded that he was, “especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no candidate who will fight harder than me.” (Quoted from here)

How can you fight when you won’t listen? How can you fight if you don’t understand the passion and yes the ANGER that we are feeling in this exact moment in time? An ally amplifies the voices of the people they are supporting. An ally uses their privilege to make sure that the voices of the people they are standing with are heard loud and clear. An ally is supposed to be a bridge to others who do NOT understand. Those people were there to hear Bernie. He could have done a number of things to earn his status as an ally. He did none. He ceded the stage. He didn’t share it.

Sanders wants us to see him as a civil rights warrior but war isn’t polite. We are fighting for our lives. If you want to appeal to us as a voting block by using your record as a civil rights crusader then you should not be this tone deaf. You should not be this divorced from the emotion propelling this fight to every stage in America. You should not run. You should not wag your finger. You should not expect us to be composed when we are being murdered in the streets. You should understand that there are a gamut of responses to injustice and not all of them are polite.

To those of you wondering why these women choose Sanders and not some other candidate I can’t answer with certainty. No one has interviewed these women. Shit, just finding their names was a struggle. I’d imagine it was because HE was in Seattle. It’s probably because he CLAIMS to be down with us. I’d posit it’s because they thought he would listen and care. I’d think it’s because he is being touted as an ally. But their reasons don’t even matter to me. Sanders is not my savior. He is a man running for the office of president in a country currently experiencing an internal conflict of epic proportions. He is the candidate everyone keeps telling us Black people is our best choice. He is the candidate who keeps highlighting his work on civil rights like a line on his resume.

1

Listen folks, I know Black anger is scary to a bunch of people. Shit, even some Black people are uncomfortable with it. I listen to our young people. A huge segement of them are FED up. They are angry. They are TIRED of asking politely for people to stop murdering us with impunity. They are tired of wondering who is going to be the next hashtag and they are ready to tear shit up. I worry for them. What I will not do is silence them. What I will not do is judge them. What I will not do is tell them to be safe. NONE of us are safe right now and we all know it. Respectability politics is bullshit.

1

Yesterday I saw so many white people claim they would no longer support Black Lives Matter because they were disgusted by the behavior of TWO Black women. Listen, if that was all it took to take you out of the fight for Black lives then you were never in it. You were NEVER with us. Yesterday I saw some Black people use words like “embarrassed” to express their feelings about these two women’s refusal to be silenced. If you are Black and you were embarrassed by two women willing to put their necks on the line to get a message to power I honestly have no clue what to even do with you. Do you honestly believe that Sanders is going to be our savior? Do you honestly believe that we should be GRATEFUL to those in power who pay lip service to believing that our LIVES actually fucking matter? Do you believe that so called allies using our fucking civil rights struggle as a resume entry don’t have to DO anything else? Man listen, all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk!

Oh and for those of you lamenting that, this is NOT the way to get change or to get a candidate to listen to your concerns…

This was Bernie Sanders’ website BEFORE Marissa and Mara stormed the stage.

1

And this is what it looked like after they spoke truth to power.

2

Here’s to warrior women. May we love them. May we support them. May we raise them. May we BE them!

Any war has to be fought on multiple fronts. These women chose theirs. Where and how are YOU fighting?

I’m not okay! I shouldn’t be. Neither should you.

Published July 29, 2015 by hrhdana

Today I posted a plea on my Facebook page. I would quote it here but I had to log off for my own sanity. I begged people not to share the video that was released of Samuel Dubose’s murder with me. I implored them to please put trigger warnings and place spaces so that those of us trying desperately to practice self care would not be forced to watch it. We knew for over 24 hours that it was coming. When people started emailing me that the press conference was starting I literally felt my heart racing, my palms sweating and the tears forming in my eyes. I can not handle this today.

See, I am a writer and a reader. When I read someone’s words my mind makes pictures. I already knew all of the details of Samuel’s murder from the written reports. I already knew. I already saw it. But imagination and reality are opposites. I did not want to SEE this man murdered. I have no space in my spirit for another murder. I have no room in my spirit. I have to maintain my sanity.

I wrote the post. People shared it. People expressed their similar feelings. Then, it happened. I was scrolling down my timeline and before I realized what I was seeing there it was. Murder. In front of my eyes. Straight through my gut. My heart shattered. I fumbled with my mouse trying desperately to scroll past it. My mouse seemed to be made of some slippery substance. I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t see through my tears. A visceral reaction.

I logged out, heart racing, tears flowing. I ran to the bathroom and sobbed. A coworker knocked on the door. “Are you okay Dana?”

“NO! I’m not okay. I shouldn’t be. Neither should you”

How can this be life? How can this be okay? Why aren’t we ALL raging in the streets?

He was the father of 10. He had 4 grandchildren. He was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. He was loved.

He was murdered.

1

No. I’m not okay. And you shouldn’t be either.

If I am ever taken in to police custody…

Published July 22, 2015 by hrhdana

If I am ever taken in to police custody know that…

I will not kill myself.

I will not resist.

I will not reach for a weapon.

I will not fight.

I will comply.

I will fight in court

with all of the resources at my disposal.

I will have only one thought

during the course of the entire interaction

“Make it home to Nia”

And yes,

I WILL be

that docile Negro

that they want me to be.

I will yas suh and yas maam them to death.

My child is my life.

She is the future.

She is everything.

And I will choke on the shame of being a good slave

just so I can make it home to her.

Never let THEM write my narrative.

I am a MOTHER.

Nothing else matters.

Pride can take a flying leap.

I want to survive.

I will make myself small

and quiet.

I will choke on my rage.

I will comply.

And even having made this declaration

publicly

I know these actions can’t save me.

They can hashtag me

with impunity

some desk duty

paid vacation

for my blood on their hands.

There are no safe quarters for me

OR

my progeny.

If I am ever taken in to police custody

RAGE for me.

Don’t believe

the, “official story.”

My only thought

I promise you

was making it home

to my baby.

1

Broken

Published June 18, 2015 by hrhdana

Literally paralyzed by grief
Tears sting
Can’t see.
On my way to work
No peace.
Bus comes
Can’t move
Not safe
What do I do?
He sat in church and prayed
Watched little kids play
Said amen
Heard the Word
Then opened fire.

I can imagine the confusion
The
screaming
begging
pleading.
He reloads.
No soul.

Little girl plays dead
Five years old.
How did she know?
I can’t stop crying
Don’t ask me to
Unreasonable

Bus comes 30 minutes later.
I rise
Wet eyes
Board a bus
Full of us
The only place I’ll hear our grief today.

Broken

1

The Black experience

Published June 17, 2015 by hrhdana

So the topic of the moment is “the Black experience” and what that means. I’m not even going to get started on how that conversation is only happening because a white woman tried to co-opt Blackness.  I’m not going to mention that the only reason that some White people are even ASKING this question is because they are fascinated and appalled that someone WANTED to be Black. I’m not going to talk about how this question being asked and answered is steeped in white supremacy and systematic racism. Nope. I’m not going to talk about any of that. Nope. Not today.

I do want to talk about the Black experience. I want to describe it. I want to explain why it can’t be stolen. I want to explain why it isn’t a costume a person can put on and become real.

Black childhood is an integral part of Black experience. We all start off innocent. Race is something children see but it doesn’t impact them. It’s just what we are. I watch my almost 4 year old play with her friends of different races and ethnicities and the differences don’t matter to them.  They might remark on differences in skin tone or hair color but there is no malice in it. Kids are kids. Race is irrelevant unless they have been taught that it is not.  As we grow up and interact with the world we bump up against the world at large and it’s perceptions of race. I remember the first time I heard the n word. I was in 3rd grade. I came home and asked my Mom what it meant. I knew it was an insult from the way the person said it but I didn’t know why.

Depending on how the world highlights your Blackness to you it molds us all differently. Some of us strive for acceptance, some fight and indict the entire system, some try to assimilate, some give up. Having your innocence broken by the racist systems of this country is a part of MOST if not all Black coming of age stories. I remember the first time a teacher hurled my Blackness at me in the classroom. I remember the feeling. I remember realizing that this person didn’t like me simply because of the color of my skin. I remember the hurt. I remember it vividly. I can tell you what color his tie was. That’s how vividly I remember it.

To be Black in America is to be simultaneously hated and envied by others. The Black experience is beautiful in our enclaves where we eat great food, laugh, listen to music, support each other and speak life to each other. The Black experience is watching that truth be lost and lied about in main stream media which reduces us to thugs and hoes and claims us all illiterate and illegitimate. To be Black in America is to be held down and held back and made an exception to some racist rule when we succeed in spite of the boots on our neck.

To be Black in America is to start behind the rest of the folks at the starting line. Money can move you closer to the start line. If you come from money and you are Black you get a little closer but you are still Black. You are still starting behind. Does this mean we can’t win? Nope. We prove it all the time. We can and do win in spite of the obstacles in our paths but even on the winner’s podium people will deny that you had to run harder and faster while dodging obstacles your opponents didn’t have. To be Black in America is to be forced to cling to your truth in the knowledge that others may NEVER embrace it.

The Black experience is schizophrenic in many ways. I’m proud and happy and grateful to be a member of this group. But I’m also always in a rage against the many micro and major aggressions we face daily. Have you ever had a drip in your faucet? Those little drops of water can stain your sink basin. Just little drops of water hitting the same spot over and over and over. That’s what microaggressions are like. Things like people touching your hair, questioning your background, being shocked that you attended college, making assumptions about your marital status, asking questions about the hood etc etc etc. These things have a way of constantly othering you.. Constantly letting you know you are different. And most of these are delivered with a smile. If you dare to be angry well then you are overreacting and now you have become the angry Black woman. It’s exhausting ya’ll.

The Black experience is to know that we have no rights that cops or really anyone is bound to accept. The Black experience is feeling unsafe when a police cruiser passes you. The Black experience as a parent is knowing that you can not protect your child from overzealous police officers or neighborhood watch men with guns. It is a powerlessness that renders you impotent. So you instruct your child on ways to survive these encounters, knowing that even compliance will not guarantee their survival.

The Black experience is a choice between white washing our names or knowingly facing housing and employment discrimination.

The Black experience is more than hair or music. The Black experience is more than adopting Black children. The Black experience is NOT a feeling it’s an actual thing. And although there is variety in it (like any other culture) it is a very real thing. You can not co-opt it. You can not wear it like a costume. You can not lie your way in to it. It’s all bad and all good at the same time. And THAT is the truth.

And even writing all of THAT you won’t understand it if you don’t LIVE it

1

Imagine

Published April 30, 2015 by hrhdana
Imagine
 
You are at work and you get a phone call from your 15 year old child.
“Mommy they let us out of school but there are no buses to get home. Police in riot gear are at the bus stop yelling that we need to leave. Where do I go Mommy? I’m scared.”
 
Imagine.
 
You are sitting at your desk at work when you get this call.
 
Imagine
 
You tell your child to go back inside the school. “I am coming to get you. Go inside the school and wait for me.”
 
Imagine
 
You tell your boss you have to leave. You gather your things. You run to the car that you are lucky enough to own when your phone rings again.
 
“Mommy the school won’t let me back inside. I don’t know what to do.”
 
Imagine
 
As your child cries on the phone your mind races.
“Find a store. Go in the mall. Go somewhere safe. Somewhere inside.”
 
Imagine
 
As you race towards the school your phone rings twice more with your child detailing the places she has been denied entrance. In the background you hear cops screaming, kids screaming and the sickening thud of things banging.
 
Imagine
 
When you get to the area of your child’s school you can not drive in. Streets are closed to traffic. So you park illegally and run the blocks to your child, huddled against a building with 4 of her friends. As you walk them out of the danger zone you see kids with no adult presence for them. You see cops in full riot gear. You hear helicopters. You see a kid throw a rock. You see cops throw rocks back at kids. You are stopped by a cop who wants to know where you are going with these kids.
 
Imagine.
 
You finally get home. You turn on the TV to see that the situation devolved in to the mayhem you knew that it would. The children are being vilified and no one is even interested in the truth.
 
Imagine.
 
Now open your eyes to reality.  THIS HAPPENED! our country. This is what happened in Baltimore. This land is your land. This is the genesis of the “riot” that burned that beloved (sarcasm) CVS to the ground. (May it rest in peace)

This is what greeted 13 to 18 year olds who had planned a peaceful after school protest. THIS!
Protests Continue After Death Of Baltimore Man While In Police Custody


If you are not actively doing something to help you are part of the problem. Your involvement can run the spectrum from sharing truth with the misinformed to marching to letter writing to activism. Spread truth. Refuse to be steamrolled by propaganda. This is OUR country. Wake up.

Baltimore uprising.
Justice for Freddie

Citizen in distress

Published April 10, 2015 by hrhdana
I’m lucky.
A rainbow of people love me
and I love them.
I’m blessed.
Raised in a place where differences
are embraced
diversity
is a reason to celebrate
and something craved.
I’m lucky.
I grew up in a sea of faces that looked like me
and didn’t.
I ate matzo with my Jewish babysitter.
I learned Irish dancing steps with my high school crew.
I teased my hair to kingdom come with my Italian guidettes.
Ate curry with my Caribbeans too.
Learned how to negotiate from this Ethiopian dude.
Blessed.
 I have been.
I’m lucky.
My best friend is Irish and Puerto Rican
Her family is a rainbow of love
making babies that run the spectrum
from light to dark.
Each one
celebrated,
loved,
worried over.
No ignorance about the differences
in the challenges they will face
when they leave the safety of the nest.
Eyes wide open.
Acknowledging difference
because there is NOTHING wrong with it.
NOTHING.
It just is.
I’m blessed.
I know this.
And yet
I exist
in a larger context.
America.
My home.
My country.
I love she.
To say otherwise would be a lie.
I love my country.
This is my home.
This is where my life is.
And I love it.
Even though she often breaks my heart.
Imperfect.
Racist.
Sexist.
Ignorant.
Opportunist.
Capitalist.
Insensitive to the differences
that make her great.
And a huge part of her powerbase
hates me.
Actively hates me.
Demonizes me.
Murders me
With impunity.
This abusive relationship
with the country of my birth
is breaking me down.
And it would be easier
If I could just hate her.
The world is massive.
I could live anywhere.
But I stay here
Because I love it.
And I want to believe
that the ones who hate me
are a vocal minority
but the murders don’t cease.
The go fund me pages
of racists and homophobes
make millions.
And my little cousin
can’t raise money to learn.
It burns.
My stomach churns.
How can I love a place
that isn’t safe?
Where national empathy
doesn’t apply to those who look like me?
This abusive relationship
with my home,
the one place
I should feel safe
Is
disorienting
maddening
confounding.
AGONIZING.
“Dana you talk about race all the time.
Give it a rest. Relax your mind.”
Another “friend” who doesn’t want to understand.
Because what those words REALLY mean is,
“please stop challenging me.
Your reality is uncomfortable to see.
Could you please suffer and process quietly?”
Silence demanded from me
is a goodbye.
And if America were a person
I would have given her my entire ass to kiss
a long time ago.
But this is my home.
And it hurts me.
Murders those who look like me
with impunity.
She withholds opportunity
demands that we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps
on boots that we don’t own.
This is my home.
This abusive relationship
with my home,
the one place
I should feel safe
is
agnonizing.

1