The killing of Michael Brown was a turning point in my life. The death of a stranger never impacted me as intensely, before. This was when I lost my cape. My life started to feel more and more mortal. Fragility and mortality began ravaging and ripping through my psyche, like rabid dogs. Hearing about your killing hurt me deeply. It hurt deeply because that was when I first learned that to some in this country, my life did not matter. That was when I learned to some, I am nothing more than a nail, a nail ready to be hammered to the ground by any person or system that sees me as a threat. Black boys and girls in this country grow up with targets embedded within their backs.
Tamir Rice, that could have been me. I remember being a carefree young Black boy enjoying life, playing with my airsoft gun on the side of my house with my brother. I could have lost my life that day. Some officer could have mistaken my toy for a gun and my skin for probable cause. My number could have been called and another nail alas, driven to the ground.
Eric Gardner, the air has been seized from my lungs I cannot breathe. My breath was taken from the moment I was born. I did not have a choice in being born into this world. No one consulted me. No one informed me that because I was born with darker skin, I did not own the breath in my own lungs. I was not told that at a moment’s notice that breath could be reposed from my lungs and that has made me obsessed with my existence.
Philando Castile, when I first heard of your murder my body was frozen in shock. That summer, Black bodies were piling up all over the country. When I saw that video, yet again, the air was ripped from my lungs and a knot planted in my throat. I had to log off of Facebook because I saw your face all over it and I just could not take it. I wrote this poem that day,
I scroll down my Facebook feed holding back tears
Another Black soul makes the journey from the womb to the tomb way too soon
Our Black lives have been misused, abused, and fed a ruse
A false sense of freedom
I should have known the only free thing we get is Free Doom
Free Hate, Free Bullets, and Free Chains
It is all the same game
Just a different name
Killing Blacks is the new craze
I have come to a realization. I exist not for myself. I exist for those who are told they do not exist, for those who do not have the means to resist, for those who regardless of the daunting challenges, find ways to persist. I exist for that Black boy who never got to play with toys because he had to grow up way too soon. At age five, he was already labeled a goon. At age thirteen, to the world, he became a man. A nail, ready to be driven to the ground. A Black body, ready to be broken. How many Black souls must yell in pain before this world is woken by their screams? Because we are tired. Tired of pleading, tired of crying, and tired of dying. Which is why we cannot stop, we cannot give up. We must make a way; forge a brighter tomorrow, and create space for those to come. I encourage you to resist, persist, and never let this world forget that you exist.
Great read Damilola! Your words managed to bring me back to the emotions I felt during each one of these tragic deaths. That’s powerful! Thank you for reminding me that the fight is not over, and that we must continue to resist against this unwarranted persecution.