Catch me this evening on KMOJ 89.9. Lissa Jones’ Urban Agenda will interview me on Smiling Is Not Resilience: an unfinished memoir.
The final touches have been added. We are ready to go to print. More info on the December 2019 book release coming soon.
A little girl exits the back seat on the passenger side.
A police officer scoops her up.
The world bears witness.
No justice. No peace.
As this child grows up we will brand her resilient.
Never mind the nightmares and daymares that now blur.
Now, sitting behind her mommy, elevated in her carseat with the pink swirls, nothing protects her view. Bullets rip through her Philando. Too fast to count. The blasts shake the car. She, sits still. Eyes wide. In tune to her mommy’s level voice. Yes sir. I will keep my hands where you can see them, sir. Mommy reasoning with the shouting policeman pointing his gun. Mommy live-streaming on her cell phone. Mommy.
She makes herself small.
Never mind her Philando’s groans or his splattered blood or his head falling toward her lap.
Never mind her Mommy’s plea: Please, don’t tell me you just killed my boyfriend.
Never mind these horrific minutes, ingrained during her formative years, will impact her for a lifetime and then some.
We will brand her resilient as we seek to comfort ourselves.
We will brand her resilient as we cocoon ourselves in a silver-lined fantasy that mandates a four year old become our hero.
We will brand her resilient as we pull bloodied threads of hope from her personal tragedy.
We will brand her resilient. Mommy handcuffed in the squad car. Breaks. Wails.
“It’s okay, Mommy.
“It’s okay. I’m right here with you.”
“I will protect you.”
We need mother and daughter to be resilient.
They are our hope.
Never mind the cost.
We are anything but resilient, so we ascribe this burden to a four year old Black baby.
We insist she bear what we cannot.
We know there is no justice.
We know there is no peace.
We know nothing has really changed in over 200 years.
We cover our guilt, our anguish, our hopelessness as
We lament…there are no words.
Cowards that we are, hiding behind a traumatized little girl, who witnessed the brutal murder of her Philando by those sworn to protect and to serve.
First posted June 2017. Remembering the life and death of Philando Castile.
We must be the voice for the…children, homeless, disadvantaged and underprivileged, mentally ill, unborn, elderly, minorities…
How arrogant to assume a person, a group, a race, a nation has no voice.
I know no living person who is voiceless…even our dead speak.
Hear our whispers.
Feel our tension.
See our hands clenched, lips pressed tight, and our eyes steeled for battle.
We hit the ground and curl into a tight ball. We wail, scream, rant. We beat our fists bloody. We march, protest, and riot. We hold our breath. We refuse to assimilate. We fail to thrive.
We plead and beg.
We sell our bodies.
We divorce our families.
We kill our neighbors, harm our children, our parents, your children, your parents.
We commit suicide and leave no note.
We populate your statistics, headlines, prisons, mental hospitals, Amber Alerts, and your worst nightmares.
Uncensored, we regret nothing.
We are not voiceless.
We are overachievers, perfect students, articulate, intelligent, strong women and men. We are motivators, your heroes who are always, “Just fine.” We make the dean’s list, graduate with honors, surpass expectations, lead.
We are success on antidepressants.
We can’t sleep.
We wonder how much longer we can fake being “Just fine.”
We refuse to eat. We overeat. We drink, smoke, mainline, pop, huff and snort everything from household cleaners to prescription drugs. We self-medicate.
Our voice is in our Rap, Hip Hop, Gospel, Blues, Chants, and moans. We raise our voice in selfies, murals, paintings, and graffiti. It’s in our dance. Art. Changes. Everything. Yes?
We scribble notes on bits of paper. Our voice lives in our poetry, our memoirs of pain, our spoken word, our texts, tweets, and our online comments and posts.
Oh Lord, hear our wordless prayers.
Hell, we tattoo, pierce, and burn our flesh.
YOU’RE JUST NOT HEARING US!
Learn our language—both spoken and unspoken. Listen to our eyes downcast, wide with fright, wrought with pain, bright with hope. Hear our head held high or shoulders slumped. Listen to the way we walk, with whom we walk. Hear the spaces between our words. Understand our tone, tempo, rhythm. Listen and you will hear us. We’ll lead the way to our own healing and growth.
Stand with us. But do not speak for us; for when you do, you make the deficit ours and not yours.
Do you hear us?
What does your pain feel like?
Those who love me and think they know me, ask gingerly.
For the medical team it is routine, cursory. Not rhetorical.
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being minor discomfort and 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, what is your pain level right now?
Is it localized or widespread?
Is it superficial or deep?
Does it increase when you move?
Is it manageable?
What brings you relief?
What does my pain feel like?
I swallowed pills, slept with strangers, inhaled carbon monoxide.
No one asked, “what does your pain feel like?”
Not those who loved me and thought they knew me,
Not the medical teams that dragged me back to existence,
Not psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors.
Had they asked I would have complied.
What does my pain feel like?
Cataclysmic and mercifully terminal.
My love affair with Autumn is common knowledge. If there could only be one season…this is it. There is a quiet that begins to blanket my world late September, early October. The air turns crisp. The wind more playful. The spectacular artistry of nature as leaves magically change their clothes in front us, then stand naked as if to say LOOK AT ME. SEE ME AS I AM.
I prefer the shorter days, the return of my lost hour, the addition of light layers. Give me Autumn’s palette. I dip into the dark greens, deep reds, golds, and browns that soothe me so.
I am most creative in the fall. I sleep better. I am most introspective and prone to remembering, turning over, examining, questioning. I’m also more contradictory. In fall, I’m more apt to accept Life on its terms. Acknowledge all that I will never understand, hold the losses, pain, injustices close, stare them down without the balm of an illusive hope to ease their existence in my life.
There is something empowering (albeit exhausting yet simultaneously relaxing) in taking Life straight up. Sort of like floating along with the current rather than swimming against it. Sure there’s a time and place to swim upstream even knowing damn well we will end up downstream. And once beaten by the river we pull up on the bank and trek upward—drenched, battered, minus a shoe, hungry, terrified; yet, we march on and upward this time through the darkening woods.