It has come to this...
YESTERDAY, I HAD TO MAKE THE DECISION if I wanted to share with OliviaGrace the goings-on in her country. I got off work and just drove around for awhile. I was so amazed at how the clouds seemed to be more beautiful than ever as they hung low over this land that has blood running like rivers in our streets. Finally, I pulled over and said to her, "Baby, have you heard anything about the news today?" My angel/pixie/fairy/mermaid shook her head no. I said, "I've been thinking about you all day as these horrific stories have played over and over and over and I think that you are old enough to be aware of the world around you. And maybe, baby, if I show you, you will be able to understand better, why while we are in stores, I am constantly monitoring you about little behaviors that seem like I am making a big deal for nothing." I went on to say, "Now, I know you have seen scary movies and you are not too affected by them because you know that they really aren't real. But baby, today I have seen some things that are scarier than any movie that I have ever seen. They were more scary because they were REAL."
"Baby, have you hear anything about the news today?"
SO, SHE CLIMBED into the front seat with me and I handed her my phone. I explained, "Now this first video I am going to let you see, was actually streamed live as it happened. What you are about to see is real and it's bad..." I sat and watched her face as she watched the slaughtering of Philando Castile. I watched her face as she listened to the female seamlessly slip into the primal posture of survival. "Yes, officer. My hands are visible, officer..." In my mind's eye, I could still see Philando laying there as he expired just moments after the encounter began. I didn't think it would ever end. I watched her face as she heard the little girl in the background crying, "Don't cry, mama. I'm right here..." I remember praying that God had wrapped her tight in the veil of unknowing as she tried to comfort her mommy after witnessing that act of terror. Finally, when it was over, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Did he...die for real?" "Yes. He is dead. He was a man who was told to get something out of his pocket, and as he reached for it, he was shot 4 times in front of his family. And it happened within mere minutes of the police coming to the car."
So now what?
WE SAT TOGETHER quietly for a while as she scrolled through my feed on Facebook. I knew that she was not very familiar with it because I have not allowed her to have one yet. I watched as she saw another video. I didn't say anything. I just watched her as she thought for a minute before she finally pushed play. I turned my head to look out of the window as I listened to Alton Sterling being killed within seconds of his encounter with the police. My heart started beating fast like I was right there, and I became afraid. I didn't think I could ever "un- see" that huge hole in Alton's chest, rhythmically pumping out life's force. I felt for a moment that I could even smell it on that hot summer day. I had to reach over and finally take my phone from her. "That's enough now. You saw it. Now you know. There's no need for you to watch it over and over again." My baby laid her head on me and just cried quietly. She is such an innocent. "Mama, could that happen to us? What if Journey and Thylas are stopped by the police? Could they get hurt?" I looked at her for a minute and finally I answered, "Yes. And at this point, Olivia, statistically, if your "cousin-brothers" were to encounter the police--for any reason--the odds that they would be hurt and very probably killed are very high."
"My heart started beating fast like I was right there, and I became afraid. I didn't think I could ever 'un-see' that huge hole in Alton's chest, rhythmically pumping out life's force. I felt for a moment that I could even smell it on that hot summer day."
FIRSTLY, I TURNED the car back on and said, "Let's go get some dinner." When we arrived at Culver's and were standing in line, Olivia said, "Mama, we are the only black people in here. What if the police came in here? What if they had guns..?" I became so angry in that moment. Here I am standing in a public setting with my child trying to process her environment with the new information she had. And all these white people standing around trying to look as though they could not hear her or see her. The RAGE in that moment was new to me. But I still had to parent her--regardless of where we were or who was looking. I turned to my baby in full view of everyone there and said, "Look at me! Stop. Do not allow your fear and anxiety to take to you on flights of fantasy! You do not have to look around you and create "what if" scenarios. Look at me! Stop now. You are to learn to take what you are feeling right now and look at what actually HAS happened in your world and learn from the reality of those things so that you can be educated and work on ways to become a fighter in this war. I cannot allow you to be outside of the safety of our home and shrinking away from shadows and allowing emotion to govern your behavior. You must become a thinker. A watcher...and a Voice. Do you understand me, Olivia?"
This has gotten real.
AND EVERY WHITE PERSON AROUND us kept their heads slightly turned and their eyes averted from me and my little darker-hued girl, as though they could not hear the exchange between a mother and her scared child. And I felt so alone in trying to calm and teach and keep her safe. I looked around me and back at my girl and wondered how I was going to teach her to still love? How was I going to teach her to strive for Peace...when the rage inside me was screaming, "I don't want Peace. I don't want to be "friends." I don't care to ever participate in another fucking rally, march, vigil, prayer...Fuck That!
I TURNED WITH TEARS IN MY EYES to face the young brown skinned man at the register who had been watching us closely, to place our order. He just stood looking at me quietly until he finally said, "It's war." And without even thinking, just like when Olivia was very little, I reached out without ever taking my eyes off the man in front of me, as I pulled her closer to me.
Photographer Credit: David Geary
Conceptual Visual Artist: Tanisha Lynn Pyron
Image Title: Rise Up
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Let's talk about it.
Did you talk with your children about the horrors of last week? If so, why? how? If not, why Not?
We'd love to hear from you!