On Charleston: I Wish I Had Something Better To Say

It's been one week since domestic terrorism took nine Black lives during a bible study at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

I have tried and failed several times a day for the last seven days to come here and express my emotions and thoughts around it, to put what's broiling within me in response into coherent, meaningful language. I want to say something that will pierce your heart and obliterate your sense of what you think you know about living in this country the same way his bullets pierced their existence and cut off their breath mercilessly. I want to say something that will permanently knock the scales from your eyes like Paul's, and cause you to finally SEE us the way you see yourself: as human and of immeasurable worth. I want to say SOMETHING that will slice you at the knees and cause your face to desire a wall to press and wail into, like this latest attack against Blackness has done to me.

I want to say something harsh, raw and unfiltered, something that looks the lower nature of Whiteness dead in the eyes and tells it to go fuck itself. I want my words to teleport you into the Black experience in America. I want them to break your soul open and rip out its spine, leaving you paralyzed and unable to face anything else.  I want the pain of the Black experience to constrict your heart and break your ribs and fill your lungs so that all you feel, all you breathe is the legacy and daily satiating of unchecked and unfettered White violence. 

I want to say something nice and palatable, appeal to your higher nature-perhaps I'll get more bees buzzing into life-saving, racism eradicating action with honey. Maybe if I was less angry, less outspoken, less of your idea of what Black womanhood is...

I want to say nothing at all because I've honestly run out of words, out of appeals, out of the ability to make the truth plainer than I already have, but I don't. have. that. option. 

Options? None of my options involve disengaging, not responding, staying silent, checking out to preserve my mental health...I can't strip myself of Black skin and the social construct created by those who fear it and therefore have no other choice but to react. To respond. To engage. To scrape something from inside my soul together that I can present to you that says "See? SEE? DO. YOU. SEE?! WHY WON'T YOU SEE?! WHY WON'T YOU SPEAK?! WHY WON'T YOU RISK EVERYTHING YOU KNOW FOR WHAT'S RIGHT?! WHY WON'T YOU RISK SAYING BLACK LIVES MATTER-NOT ONCE, NOT TWICE, BUT DAY IN AND DAY OUT, IN WORD AND DEED UNTIL WHITE SUPREMACY HANGS FROM A NOOSE ON A TREE, ITS GUTS DISEMBOWELED AND ROTTING LIKE THE BLACK BODIES IT HAS RELENTLESSLY SATIATED ITS APPETITE ON?"

We risk everything, every day, risk our lives just to exist, breathe, walk to the store for candy, swim, worship, TO BE. The fact you risk so little is a betrayal that eats away at our marrow like terminal cancer. 

Last Wednesday night while Dylan Roof was taking innocent Black lives simply because they are Black, I was watching A Different World with Bertski. We were laughing deep belly laughs, fondly reminiscing about late 80's and 90's fashion, and marveling at the brilliance of Black creativity as we watched Denise & crew navigate college life. 

At 10:14pm, my marveling at Blackness turned into shock and mourning at the debasement and eradication it continues to experience in 2015. 

I have spent the last seven days searching for something to say that would be anything but rambling, incoherent rage or despairing hopelessness. I've been trying to keep it all in online, working to amplify the words of others, words that say what needs saying every day far better than anything I can scrape up. I know there is work to be done and I know I have to keep doing my part in it, in whatever ways I can. I know I need to keep speaking. I know I have an obligation to keep responding through written and visual art, because like Nina Simone once said, "You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times." She's right. I have no other choice because I feel the weight and signs of the times too deeply in my marrow. I hear them echoing in my soul chamber. 

But right now my face is turned to the wall and my lips are moving, vocalizing all that's broiling within me quietly or loudly as I let the anger out to keep from being consumed by it. Right now my hands are seeping into paint and letting fragmented thoughts and emotions communicate on canvas raw and uninhibited. Right now I'm having more hard talks with Brennan because he's the oldest, drilling into him and his brothers that they are loved, worthy, and deserving of being and living. 

Right now I'm just lost from it all. This is all I've got. 

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