"If you get tired take a break but don't give up." - Donnie I. Bets.
On Thursday I stayed at work later than usual to attend an event. There was a play being performed in the theater called 'BLACK' and I wanted to stay to see it. The words on the flyers, that were hung all over school, intrigued me and I felt compelled to stay and watch it.
The flyers read "After one more young black man dies at the hand of police, a community is shaken. A conversation evolves between two mothers at the vigil - one white and one black. Through their interaction BLACK, gets to the heart of the matter on communication between races." Intriguing right?
The theater, that two months earlier was packed with students eager to see Footloose, was almost completely empty. The first few middle rows were the only ones occupied. My colleague and I easily found seats and settled in as the show began.
The play begins with a black woman walking on stage. She wore all black, as one typically does at a vigil, her steps though intentional and steady were also somber and heavy. She seemed like the type of person that typically walks with a soft quiet step, but on this day her movements seemed heavy, loud. A crying, distraught, white character joins the Black woman on stage. She's devastated over what has happened and doesn't understand how an adult could shoot a child.
"What was he thinking?" she exclaims repeatedly, getting more and more upset each time she says it. The Black character gives her a tissue and some serious side eye. She doesn't engage initially but after a while she decides to give her new companion a talk on the Black experience in America.
They talked about the Black Lives Matter movement and how it's not an exclusion but rather an intentional focus on a demographic that is marginalized and suffering in our society. They talked about white being perceived as the norm and capital "B" Black as an identity.
They dive into all of this until suddenly it's time for the Black female to speak at the vigil. The scene unravels and we find out the the white woman is the wife of the cop and the black woman the mother of the child that was murdered. I've already given away the climax of the play so I could go on but I'll stop there. After the show the actresses, the writer (an East alumna) and the director, had a round table conversation with everyone who attended.
They instructed us to leave our seats and to form a large circle so that we would all be on the same level to be able to see each other. The director asked if anyone had any thoughts or feelings they wanted to share and a young, black man, raised his hand and shared a bit of his story.
I wish that I could tell you everything he said. Initially I planned to, but then I remembered that everyone in attendance agreed that what happened in that auditorium and what was said there would stay there. What he shared was not something that was new for me to hear. What he shared was a confirmation of what I had just seen portrayed in front of me. It was an African American mans black joy crushed and darkened by white fragility.
A young black man speaking of treading lightly and not wearing a hood and flowing through life trying to go unnoticed and trying not to ruffle feathers, trying to survive. The play paired with his story made me furious. The Black mom in the play eventually shares that her son was walking home from baseball practice when he was killed. Thinking that he was a criminal, a cop stopped him. When the 12 year old turned around with his baseball bat the cop shot him because he assumed his life was in danger.
Black lives matter.
There's so much weight behind those three simple words; Black lives matter. So many people get uncomfortable when they read it and skim over it hoping that the next line will house a different set of words that will ideally bring a familiar sense of comfort. Black lives matter.
I, too, have found myself treading lightly, trying not to get angry and ignoring microaggressions. Black lives matter. Microaggressions that I believe lead people to think that a 31 year old white man, who trashes a store in Brazil, is a kid trying to have fun; while a 17 year old black boy walking home from the store with a hood on is a grown man worth fearing. Black lives matter.
Aggressions that start out as micro. Ideals that lead people to believe that since there's been a Black president that there's no such thing as modern day lynching or the new Jim Crow. Black lives matter. Microaggressions that makes someone bold enough to say All lives matter to the face of their black friend and the ignorance to get upset when they're challenged on their foolishness.
Black lives matter. Not more than white lives or Asian lives or Hispanic lives but rather just as much as. Not an inclusion but rather an invitation into the lives of a group of people who are asking to be seen, are asking for equity and are asking for a system that was not made for us to stop oppressing us. An invitation for the majority to use their society given privilege, not earned privilege, to fight for the lives of those who are, too often, over looked.
Those that are killed while playing with a toy in a park. Tamir Rice. Those that are shot in their cars while reaching for an ID that they were instructed to show. Philando Castile. Those who are choked to death on the side walk for selling cigarettes. Eric Garner. Those who are stopped and asked to walk backwards with their hands up and as they're doing so are shot. Terence Crutcher.
Black lives matter? Yes. Of course they do. I know that, do you?
"If you have a critique for the resistance, our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression." - Jesse Williams