This weekend, I was at a convening with 100 young Black leaders and activists, brought together from across the country by the Black Youth Project. We were there to talk about our advocacy work as well as issues affecting the Black community. And more importantly, we were there to talk about what we can DO about it and put some of those things to action. They called us the BYP100.
Yesterday, we had just wrapped day 2 around 8:35pm CST and everyone was ready to kick it. After 10 hours of work, we deserved it. And as our facilitator, Melinda Weekes dismissed us, someone said “The jury reached a verdict.” We weren’t ready to hear it and some of us kind of freaked out. I started shaking because I WAS AFRAID.
I’ve avoided watching the trial of George Zimmerman for his murder of Trayvon Martin because I honestly could not deal. I knew it wouldn’t be good for my psyche to watch it. Because I was already so angry. What I need to cope sometimes is avoidance. And that’s real.
So to be in that room, AT THAT MOMENT with THOSE people was perfect. Because there was no place I’d rather be than with people who are so passionate about Black folks that many have devoted their lives to working against injustice.
The giant screen we had just used for presentations was switched to MSNBC as they got ready to bring in the jury. We formed a giant circle and held hands. And watched with bated breath. WHOOO!!! We were so damb NERVOUS!
And “not guilty” was read and half of us broke the circle in gasps while some of us (me, anyway) waited to see what else. Surely manslaughter was a choice, right? And they’ll say he was guilty of that. NOPE. Nothing came after that. And many people sunk into the floor in sobs. My tears fell before I could even process it. And they didn’t stop falling for an hour.
NOT. FUCKING. GUILTY.
And the fucking smirk on Zimmerman’s face made me wanna dropkick that screen and hope his teeth would connect with my foot somehow.
We got back into the circle, many of us in tears.
And folks took turns sharing what they were feeling RIGHT THEN. So many damb emotions. Because what we thought America felt about Black folks was confirmed. Anger. Sadness. HATE. So much hate for the privilege that allows people to wake up and know that their sons and daughters can walk out the house without being used for target practice.
Not gonna lie. It’s hard to maintain optimism and hope when you’re told over and over again that you are unsafe to walk the streets FREELY because of your skin color. And in a world where folks call “post-racial.” GTFOH.
This was about DEFINITELY race. And we felt it intensely personally. I felt it in a way that I did NOT expect I would. The throat kick felt much worse than I anticipated, when I tried to rationalize in my own head that the verdict might go like that. I don’t think it was REAL until it became real. Like “oh shit. They REALLY don’t like Black people in America FOR REAL FOR REAL.”
Well, OUCH. ALL THE DAMB OUCHES!
I mean FOR REAL. Folks shooting dogs and themselves and they get jail time. But you shoot a Black boy and you get the gun you used to shoot him back to keep using. Oh ok.
WHAT THE FUCK, FLORIDA?!? See why people be saying that state gotta go? See why some folks wanna vote it off the non-island?
This is the same state where Marissa Alexander, a Black woman, is serving 20 years in jail for shooting a WARNING SHOT into her ceiling when she felt threatened by her abusive husband. And her defense was “stand your ground.”
So yes. This IS about race. And this shit makes me REALLY mad. And last night, I’m so thankful I was in the space I was because where would I have put my energy otherwise? Those of us in that room understood how blessed we were to be there because that shared experience was so necessary. The fact that as people who are actively working towards a better future for people who look like us, we were instantly punched in the gut.
Many in the room were teachers. Many were parents. Many were young Black men. Some in the room had dealt with police brutality first-hand. Some had lost loved ones to gun violence. Everyone had a story and all of us saw our lives reflected in that verdict because any of us could have been the subject. So how do we talk to our kids about what happened? And how do we know that the work we do matters or makes a difference?
How? Because we just have to. We have to because it keeps us from helplessness.
Even so, after the tears and the rage and the disappointment, we were left asking “now what?” Well now what needs to be some action. Demonstrations had already broken out all over the country, as expected. Thankfully, most were peaceful rallies. And many are still going on right now!
I wanted to write. Because writing it out helps me deal with all my thoughts and feelings. But words didn’t come for hours. I was wrecked. Eventually they did.
As a collective, we wanted to make sure our voice was heard. And we wanted to tell other Black people that we might be mad now, but we cannot revel in it and let it cripple us. Because our history is strong with fight and we still have more in us.
Here’s the statement from the BYP100. Please feel free to post the statement below on your own blog. We think people need to hear it.
To the Family of Brother Trayvon Martin and to the Black Community:
May this statement find us in the spirit of peace and solidarity,
We know that justice for Black life is justice for humanity.
Our hope and community was shaken through a system that is supposed to be built on freedom and justice for all. We are your sons and daughters. We are the marginalized and disenfranchised. We are one hundred next generation leaders.We are the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100).
We see the hopelessness of a generation that has been broken trying to find its place in this world. We understand that we need to turn anger into action and pain into power.
As we waited to hear the verdict, in the spirit of unity, we formed a circle and locked hands. When we heard “not guilty,” our hearts broke collectively. In that moment, it was clear that Black life had no value. Emotions poured out – emotions that are real, natural and normal, as we grieved for Trayvon and his stolen humanity. Black people, WE LOVE AND SEE YOU. We mourn, but there’s hope as long as love endures.
Trayvon was manifested from ancestral excellence. The salt water falling from our eyes now, is not different from the salt water we were trafficked on then. If the soil of the United States could speak, before saying a word it would cough up our blood. Choking frantically, crust-curdling with the gore of a oppressed peoples it has been force-fed. White supremacy has water-boarded it with the remnants of its genocide of us.
This moment reminds us that we can’t look to others to see our value but we have to recognize our own value. In spite of what was said in court, what verdict has been reached, or how hopeless we feel, Trayvon did NOT die in vain. A mother should never have to bury her son. However, his death will serve as the catalyst of a new movement where the struggle for justice will prevail.
Instead of a moment of silence, we raise our voices together. As Audre Lorde said,“our silence will NOT PROTECT US.” We are young leaders standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, carrying the historical trauma embedded in a legal system that will NOT PROTECT US. We are the legacy of Black resilience that compels us to fight for our lives.
We continue to call out Black love, Black Power and Black is Beautiful in the face of continued devaluation of Black life. We affirm a love of ALL Black life, no matter if we are in hoodies or business suits, incarcerated or in boardrooms, on welfare or in the WNBA, on the corner or in the White House. We declare the fundamental value, beauty and power of ALL Black people. The poet Claude McKay once said, “Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave…we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack. Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”
JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON.
Beyond November Movement
July 14, 2013
If you stand in solidarity with us, tweet @BlackYouthProj and use the #BYP100 hashtag.
This weekend felt like I was right where I needed to be when I needed to be there. So much love and respect to Dr. Cathy J. Cohen, Melinda Weekes, Biko Baker, Kedar Coleman, Bakari Kitwana, Lisa Fager and the entire team that made BYP100 happen. It was transformative and being amongst magical people forces you to acknowledge your own magic. Even in the midst of such disheartening news.
I’m sending everyone peace, love and light because right now, because it’s needed.
How are you dealing with this verdict?
P.S. Sorry if I’m all over the place here. I’m still tryna process it. And I’ma still have random outbursts about it here and there. This post was like random outburst in paragraph form. Thanks for dealing.