Sunday, July 10, 2016

Reflecting on Why We Can No Longer Sit Idly: Please Tell the World my Son's Black Lives Matter Too #BlackLivesMatter #BlackSonsMatter

Dellah's Jubilation

This weekend has been anything but normal and I've found myself caught up in my feelings & like many of you I'm sure, I've been trying to find all the words to express what I've been thinking after the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's tragic deaths. Typically I write about reasons to celebrate life but realize with this platform I have a social responsibility to speak out honestly on things that are a far cry from jubilation, despite how tough the reality may seem. Writing & sharing posts on our most recent lived in moments - trips to Rhode Island, movie screenings of the latest summer blockbusters and the perfect holiday gift seem so irrelevant to write about when our social media feeds and email boxes should be filled with the voices in mourning & those advocating for positive change. I'll make room here for me to share this story because I knew as a mother of two brown little boys I couldn't come back to this space without discussing the current state of our country. There is a need to recognize the disproportionate number of black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement who are meant to serve and protect us all and to encourage you all to speak out against it.


More names of young black men who lost their lives senselessly over the last few days have become hashtags gone viral and I want to be a part of the positive movement that keeps their memories and the names of those before them as a relevant reminder that Black Lives Do Matter Too!  Alton Sterling, Philando CastileTamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and several more were someone's love, someone's father, someone's son, gone too soon. As a mother I can't help but wonder and pray that our son's names won't be trending across social media only for us to bury him just a few days later. How many names will we add to the list before someone is actually convicted of the crime?


Dellah's Jubilation

16 years ago I experienced my first & only negative encounter with NYC police officers at a neighborhood Blockbuster just a few weeks after my high school graduation. It was a rude awakening, one that ultimately happens every day with fortunately an outcome where no lives were taken despite imaginary claims that could have ruined one young black man's life. Reflecting on it reminded me that I need to find the words to explain to my two boys what racial profiling is and how to stay safe within their control when approached by police officers.

July of 2000, I'd just gotten released from the hospital after being diagnosed with Crohns disease and needing emergency surgery. All I wanted was my family, my boyfriend at the time and a movie marathon. Despite twenty or so staples in my abdomen we walked up and down the aisles debating between what thriller movie to watch and what video game I'd beat him in. As far as I was concerned, getting discharged meant the worst was over, never could I have imagined the afternoon playing out the way it had. 

After a few minutes of standing I'd grown physically tired and knew I'd need to take a taxi home and asked one of the sales associates to call one for us and without hesitation she smiled, said of course and we waited as she went to call.

A good 15 or 20 minutes had passed and still no cab, by this time the pain meds seemed to be wearing off and before I took a seat on the floor I asked the young woman how long before it's arrival. I could see in her face that something was wrong, she could barely look me in the eye - my boyfriend kept smiling and waiving DVDS in the air for my choosing and all she said was that she couldn't call one for me and left me sitting there hunched over in pain as she apologized and walked away.


Dellah's Jubilation


With a sudden shadow cast above me from behind I turned around to the presence of six police officers, 6 white officers in uniform and thought to myself "well damn what's going on?" as I asked for my mothers help up from the floor. After a few minutes of discussion between the police and another employee in the store, my heart dropped as I saw the officers approach my boyfriend. The exact conversation or interrogation rather, is pretty much a blur but I could never erase that moment from memory if I tried. As a few officers proceeded  to escort him to a back room, my mother and I were questioning for what purpose. What the heck did he do?

So let me describe him then: 5 foot 10, huge afro because he had just taken out his corn-rows, he wore his varsity jacket as one of the star players of our football team at the prestigious specialized Brooklyn Technical High School. A good head on his shoulders, with exceptional grades, well mannered and heading to college in Massachusetts I believe on an academic scholarship but honestly I think all that mattered was that he was black and wore baggy pants. 

Apparently a sales associate called the neighboring precinct with claims that he witnessed my boyfriend stuff DVD's into his pants. With mixed emotions, outrage and fear I remember demanding to see the "so called video tape" that they claim recorded it all. I knew better, it was just to scare him. I kept being told to be quiet and stand to the side as I cried, infuriated by what was happening. In order to leave the blockbuster he would have to pull down his pants to show he had nothing stashed away. 

Again, if it was recorded why did he have to? and why not just play back the tape? None of the officers even had time to go and look at the video to claim the accusation was valid.

It was made clear that if we tried to leave without complying he would be arrested once he stepped outside the front door. He complied, and there was a look on his face I'd never seen, one of hurt and disbelief. It took six white officers to uncover that this young black man in fact did not steal DVD's while trying to cheer up his recently hospitalized girlfriend, six officers? No apology, still no cab and a clear yet disturbing reality check for this young man who was headed to a university that had maybe 10 minorities enrolled in total, if that. 

Ultimately at least he's still alive to reflect on the situation but sadly nothing has changed and I'm sure every time a story like the ones mentioned make the evening news he flashes back to the moment where it could have been him. To this day I wish he/we would have filed a complaint or reported it to the ACLU, but even then we put it behind us because it was just easier.

                Dellah's Jubilation

Fast Forward...Not even a week ago, we were all celebrating our freedom, yet sadly we all are not free as I think back to my boys just running through the yard without a care, rocking American flag tees and waiting for the fireworks. Days earlier they took the sweetest pictures with the children of my closest friends/more like family and it made me tear up at the innocence in the five of them loving each other despite their differences. Hatred based on someone's race is not something we are born with it is taught through fear and ignorance. 

The evening after Alton's Sterling's murder video went viral I sat at the edge of my bed, running my finger through their locs as I watched my two sleeping little boys every breath and waited for my husband to walk through the door from work at 2 am.

I was worried, angered, saddened, numb.

My hubby can't even talk about his police interactions, not memories he ever wants to relive by telling me all the details and he's pretty much stayed away from social media covering these stories. My heart aches for all the black men who've had to be fearful during their encounters with police because of the color of their skin.

Unlike many who couldn't watch the videos I did this time... I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled some more. I don't feel desensitized, it's actually caused me to wake up to what's blatantly right in front of me. If nothing else - thrown in our faces to say, how can you ignore these atrocities {I am saddened for the families involved}? When I returned to my pt office job I sat at my desk with my headphones in, realizing the only conversations that swirled about were those of selling and buying million dollar properties, unphasedWhile I sat unfocused and tried not to mess up a quarterly accounting report. Yes life goes on, but did they even care? It's a societal problem, not just one that lies in the black communities - did they understand that?

Violence unfortunately begets violence and I do not condone what happened in Dallas at all & pray for all innocent lives lost who unfortunately are targets for the uniform that they wear. I pray for us all. I went to John Jay for Forensic Psychology and studied police psychology one semester. I don't think any of us can say that all cops are bad, that's far from the truth, yet we can't dismiss that there are many who are not trained properly, who are scared to police the neighborhoods they are assigned and let's admit, who are racist. 


How do we explain any of this to them without instilling fear? I know we can't sit around waiting for them to experience it first hand. I remember watching the docu-series Eyes on the Prize with my father as a child and the images of Emmett Till's brutal murder were disturbing, but a truth that needed to be seen. My oldest son CJ is really empathetic, sensitive and loves to question things out of curiosity and because he seems to feel everything needs to be justified: bed time, chores and why he should practice writing in detail. He caught glimpses of some of the Alton Sterling coverage on the news and has been avoiding us wanting to talk to him "can we please talk about it later, mom?" He's scared....rightfully so.

But as parents of a nearly 12 year old young man we are not at a luxury to sugar coat what's really going on out there - for God's sake Tamir Rice was a mere 12 himself, Emmett Till, 14 and Trayvon Martin, 17. Being too smart for his own good I made a comment that CJ would be the one to question an officers motives if unjustly warranted and that scares us.... rightfully so. 

Tell me, whether you see them in person or only on social media & this site, how do I tell my two boys that in 2016 because of their skin and the locs they adorn they will be judged on their appearance everyday before anyone will get the chance to have a conversation with them, hear them laugh or learn that one has a love for giving hugs, cooking and animals and another dreams to design video games, thought joining the debate team in 3rd grade was really cool and trained in ballet?


Dellah's Jubilation


What do we do before another senseless black life is lost, before another tragic video has gone viral, before another name becomes a hashtag? What do we do now when generations before us have prayed, have marched, have protested, have rioted and prayed some more? What will make a difference? How are you planning to make a difference?

I think these last two instances have proven to push justice-seekers over the edge, I received phone calls from friends who wanted to apologize, who wanted me to know that they had my boys covered in prayer. What do we do now to keep the conversation going? 

Despite color... enough is enough. We can't deny the cellphone recordings, we can't justify these loses with sentiments of black on black crime. Why are the lives of black people not cherished as equally as every other race? Don't we matter too? We did not chose the color of our skin but are proud of it and should be judged only by our character and nothing else.

Dellah's Jubilation

Dellah's Jubilation


To my Non-Black friends & readers please speak out on what's going on the same way you may have stood for France and Istanbul, just as passionately as you felt for the lion and the gorilla. And for those of you with social media accounts I implore YOU to use YOUR platform to Say something please! Take a stand, get on twitter, get on Facebook, voice your disgust & most importantly aim to TREND for something of substance. Black People are so tired, tired of defending our color, tired of mourning lost ones taken away because of hatred. We need your voice, no matter how big or small.

Are the lives of your friends, their husbands and children not worth it? 
 Support us....Say Something... Do Something.... there is no luxury to  sit idly. Tell the world my son's Black Lives Matter Too! Continued blessings to you all. 

*Edit once post went live - I let Cj read this post over my shoulder as I edited this and with tears swelling in his eyes he turned to me and asked "Mom should I just cut off my locs?"... why should he have to? I pray for all of our children. 







4 comments:

  1. I Love you guys! Your post brought tears to my eyes because it's infuriating to see what is happening in the world and I am scared. Scared for all my Black friends who pretty much become family after so many years. I pray every night and just hope this will end soon. Tell CJ his Locs are a part of him. Leave them, Never cut them.. Heaven Forbid any altercation between cops happen in the future, they wont even remember your hair style..... just the color of your beautiful skin =(

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  2. Wow this breaks my heart. I am here to stand with you to help create change for our boys.

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  3. Beautifully written and heartbreaking that we have to even write about such things in the world today. I've been struggling about this as Andre is such a carefree kid that it kills me that he will always have to be cautious because of his skin color. God bless our boys and all those that are innocent in this world

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  4. My heart is breaking for so many reasons. Your post made me think of about the conversation I had with my 11 year old niece over the weekend. It hurts that in a sense we are forced to steal a bit of their magic and innocence by having discussions that should never have to be. We shouldn't have to prepare our children on how to survive being faced with someone that is supposed to protect them. We shouldn't have to ask them to dim their light so others aren't uncomfortable in their presence and possibly cause them harm.

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