|Lunar Eclipse...just another spectacular thing revealed by darkness.|
August 23, 2020
August 19, 2020
When I came back from our family trip to Pierce City, Missouri a few years ago, my dear friend wanted to know all the details. We met for lunch and I told her that, yes, my daughter, my husband and I stood at the graveside of my third-great grandmother who was born in 1795.
That we even took pictures of the expansive greenspace where my second great-grandfather’s house once stood before he and his step-son had a firefight with an angry mob who torched the place with them in it. It’s quiet, pastoral and unassuming.
That we stood on the land my ancestors used to own before they were driven from it.
And that, yes, we held vigil with a small group from the community on the very ground where an ancestor was lynched that night in 1901.
You should really write a book about this, she nudged. Maybe if I can sort it all out in my head. It’s just a lot.
I mean, I wished I had a picture taken of my daughter and I by our maternal ancestor’s grave. I can still feel the rugged rock and rough engraving of the inscription as I traced it with my finger, but I wish I had would've had that picture taken, instead of a lonely ancient grave without any living offspring
And how if I talk about any of that piece of the story, I find myself swallowing back a crying lump.
It's a lot.
How I felt privileged that this reporter, who captured the story of my family, continues speaking their names and telling their stories in word and in person. That he was the link to a story about my own family that my family either never talked about or knew about.
It’s a lot.
Here we are two years later, shut up, but maybe not shut up. Wearing masks or not wearing masks. Cell phones recording the Barbecue Bettys who've got law enforcement on speed dial, anti-maskers who believe grocery store staff are the enemy; citizens turned protestors, and a global awakening of sorts to...
...deaths occurring during/or as a result of police intervention.
Covid’s changed a lot of things, but not that.
This year's Democratic Convention scheduled in Milwaukee has gone virtual. So I watched tonight with the windows open, while enjoying a respite from week-long humidity.
I listened to the drumbeat of calls for and promises of equity and racial justice. It is a platform that might’ve spared my ancestors’ lives and set my entire family on a different trajectory way back when.
Then came the virtual roll call vote for nomination. Maybe my penchant for the political comes from my second great-grandfather who was President of the Colored Voters organization. He too was a lynching victim that night.
Anyway, someplace in between Rhode Island’s nomination (including calamari), I thought I heard horns beeping outside. Like, incessantly beeping. And also chanting. A quick check on our neighborhood page confirmed that there was a demonstration happening two blocks away.
They were chanting BLACK LIVES MATTER on this, the one hundred-nineteenth anniversary of a triple lynching in my family and banishment from land that could've been passed down to my generation.
It’s an evergreen chant. A comforting echo through my neighborhood and my heart. And a tragedy that it still has to be said.
It’s a lot.
July 31, 2020
What's Behind My Tears Over Ferguson
No indictment against the man who caused the death of Michael Brown. No need to investigate further, it just happened. A crying lump in my throat threatened to push its way into tears. I swallowed it back and sat glued to the coverage.
I'm still ferreting out from where the threatening tears were coming.
Maybe they were about my brothers. I heard "The Talk" delivered regularly to them from my mom; it was her warning as they'd leave for classes at the college they attended in one of Milwaukee's posh bedroom communities.
"The Talk" was a simple goodbye package back then: Watch your speed. Don't give a reason to be pulled over. Call me when you get there and call before you leave.
It's taken four-plus decades to understand that warning,my mom's nervousness, and four-plus decades to realize that my brothers could've been Michael Brown. The thought carves a cold hollow in the pit of my stomach if I linger on it too long.
Maybe the tears were about people who say they're tired of talking about race. Truth is, race bubbles up to America's broad consciousness in waves, but all the while it's not in nationwide consciousness, I'm living it.
I'm thinking about it in big and small ways, from explaining to my daughter why shampoo commercials default to straight, European hair unlike hers, to conversing with business contacts over the phone only to have them give a "Whaaa...you didn't say you were black" look when we meet in person, to reflexively teetering around issues of race when I'm the only brown face in a white space so people won't be uncomfortable with my reality, yet.
I. Live. This.
Maybe the tears were about the whole "colorblind" thing. I like my color. I wouldn't trade it for the world. Please go ahead and notice it. Noticing is different from judging my character based upon it. Acknowledging is a compliment. Sweeping characterizations on an entire race based upon knowing me, or questions asked as if I'm the designated spokesperson for black people everywhere are another.
Notice and acknowledge color. Notice and acknowledge that our experiences, our outlook on life might be different because of it.
Maybe the tears were about the misplaced assumption that white people should feel guilty. White people shouldn't be expected to rend their clothes and dress in sackcloth and ash. It’s just simply acknowledging what the historical facts are, from myths of the intimidating, verile black man, to the fetishizing of black women's bodies, to the inferiority of black folks in general and that it's all based out of the slavery system upon which America was founded.
Acknowledge that it's a generational thing whose effects still reverberate today. Acknowledging makes no one party to it. It is what it is.
Maybe the tears were about the fact that we've got a long way to go when it comes to race, but we don't want to talk about it. I've sat in meetings when diversity was brought up and a smothering blanket of fear and defensiveness covered the room. I've seen every spectrum of red-facedness when someone other than black refers to black people "Um...(cough, cough) African Ah (cough, cough) ahh-merican..."
Terms aren't offensive. Silence and avoidance are.
The tears are about not being heard. They are about the explaining away, rationalizing and justifying. Much like what happened tonight in Ferguson.
It feels like the racial part of who we are as a country, its convoluted history and present impacts are being steamrolled and planted over with daisies. Or maybe it's like we're all in a boat and someone on shore keeps telling us that the boat's sprung a leak, but we keep rowing anyway...and then fight with each other about whose fault it is for the boat sinking as it goes under.
Race is an issue. We can't afford to pretend the next Michael Brown won't be our dad, brother, son or friend. There's no room here anymore for colorblindness or playing the deaf mute. We have to do better and be better.
We can't afford not to.
June 16, 2020
|Who Woulda Thought?|
I was young enough to remember that and young enough to be puzzled.
IT? What was IT, and why was IT a secret?
I moved on from my confusion and, I guess innocence, until about FIVE YEARS AGO when I was introduced to Loving Day, and out of nowhere, the light broke like a two-by-four splintering on my head:
OMG, nobody talked about Uncle John being white because his marriage to Aunt Mag was ILLEGAL.
Aunt Mag was my grandmother’s aunt.
Her family – my family – survived a triple lynching, subsequent banishment from the Missouri town in which they lived, then hung around in a neighboring county for another ten or fifteen years before moving north to Milwaukee.
This family who survived state-sanctioned murder and land stolen that could’ve produced generational wealth, kept that particular tragedy a secret that was so secure it took me years to question the gaps and unearth the facts.
In the shadow of Loving Day, I realized Mag and John’s marriage -- the one thing worth celebrating in their generation besides the fact that THEY SURVIVED -- had to be kept secret if the marriage was to remain intact and result in descendants like me.
On Loving Day, I quietly celebrated Mildred and Richard Loving and their legal team. I also remembered Aunt Mag and the unspoken Uncle John for sojourning on even as their fellow citizens overwhelmingly decided to criminalize marriages like theirs.
Two things can be true at the same time, right?
Honor the people who overturn legislation; and, meditate -- just for a moment -- that our systems actually condoned and enforced such legislature.
...and acknowledge, articulate (like with words) the cruelty of those systems, the silence of citizens (who hopefully knew better) and vow to make our systems better so the next generation won't be confused about their own stories when they're in the mid-forties.