(for Jordan Davis, forever 17)
We are not invisible
simply because you refuse to see us.
We will not stop fighting
simply because you demand our obedience.
We will not stop dancing
simply because you refuse to hear our song.
We will not give up
simply because you want us to believe
that power/concedes without a struggle.
We are not going to forfeit our voices
simply because you are tired of hearing our words.
We will not stop shouting
simply because you try to cut out our tongues.
We will not stop coming
simply because you hold up your palm.
We will not continue to be your monsters,
the things that go bump in your night,
the reason you toss and turn in your sleep
simply because you refuse to recognize our humanity.
We will take our pain and turn it into sunshine.
We will continue to see the beauty of the world through our own eyes.
-karsonya wise whitehead “today 7.17.14: my heart stopped”
(I am frustrated because right here in my adopted beloved city called #Baltimore –> we have hit 293 deaths thus far! #BlackLivesMatter they do/ they do/ they do and we need to Sing this Song Until the Whole World Hears and Believes! I explore this idea in my poem, “Songs In a Key Called Baltimore,” in the upcoming special edition of Urbanite magazzine)
What’s it like to raise two young black sons in a city like this? As Karsonya Wise Whitehead says, it’s often infuriating, sometimes terrifying, and ultimately inspiring.
I would like to write a song about peace/about reconciliation/about a city coming back together and working for the common good.
I would like to proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter and then point to the ways in which this simple concept/screamed and shouted, cried over and prayed about/has transformed the city and altered our space.
I would like to teach my sons about peace even though I am raising them in a city where peace has never been the norm/where peace is not taught on the playground/nor practiced in the school/nor modeled on the street corner.
I try and hide my frustration because in the aftermath of the Uprising/a time when black and white people named their pain/life has settled back down to the familiar/to a time where black bodies are once again endangered, black life is once again criminalized, and black spaces exist, once again, only on the edges of both the city and our minds.
I am not old enough to remember life before Brown v Board, when black and white spaces were clearly marked.
I suspect (though) that it was not much different than it is now in places around Baltimore and places across America where the crime of breathing while black is still punishable by death.
My heart always skips a beat when a cop’s car is behind me while I am driving at night/ And though my sons are not old enough to drive, I am already frightened/concerned/angry/frustrated as I think about the day when they will be stopped for the crime of driving while black.
There are days when being black in America overwhelms me and makes me want to spend the day in bed/and times when being the black mother of black boys in Baltimore City makes me wish I had enough money to move them somewhere where I could keep them safe.
Safe from them—the ones who see their lives as expendable and unnecessary/and safe from us—those who look at them without realizing that they are mirrors that simply reflect all of who we are supposed to be.
I often think about slavery and how different life was when you could see the hand that held the chain that was attached to the ball that was tied to your ankle.
We come from a people who experienced this daily and still chose to survive.
Survival is our legacy.
And since we survived the Middle Passage as involuntary passages on a trip that sealed our fate/ And we survived slavery, whips and latches by learning how to give way and stay small/ And we survived the Civil War by claiming freedom at the hands of those who looked like our oppressors/ And we survived Jim Crow by teaching our children the unwritten rules that were marked by our blood/ And we survived black mayors who moved from our communities, took a piece of our spirit but left their humanity behind—we will survive this.
And though there are times when we are like strangers in a foreign land/We look around and wonder how we got here/We take stock and realize how little we actually have/We wonder how long we will continue to suffer and die at the hands of both the oppressor and of the oppressed—and despite all of this, we survive anyway.
There are days when I look at my sons and my heart swells with pride/ As I think about all that they used to be and all that they can become/ And then I stop and catch my breath/ I grab my chest and clutch my pearls/ I blink back tears and shake my head/because I am the mother of two black boys being raised in a post-racial world/where cries for justice for Freddie and for Tyrone West and for Rekia Boyd and for Sandra Bland and for Aiyanna Jones and for Tamir Rice still get swallowed up and suppressed.
There are nights when I stand in the doorway of their room—not to wake them up for the revolution but to simply remind myself that, just for a moment, they are still safe and they are still here.
All I want is what every other mother wants around this city—the simple comfort of knowing that my sons’ lives matter—to those who look like them and those who don’t/and that my work, to pour love, light, and truth into them, will not be in vain.
And with this very simple truth/as my songs of peace get lost in my never-ending cries for justice, I know we will survive. We will rebuild. We will move on. Survival is our legacy and surviving everyday—in this racist and unjust system—is our goal.
Karsonya Wise Whitehead is an associate professor at Loyola University Maryland and the author of Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.
My Stoop Story <–Click Here
“On Being a #BlackMommyActivist” is HERE!!! Listen. Laugh. Enjoy. Share. Repeat. Over and Over Again.
“In the instance when I realized that I was pregnant, I decided that I was going to be a #BlackMommyActivist.” If I am going to have children, I am going to raise them as black warrior scholars. I had this idea of the perfect blend of the activism of Malcolm X and Assata Shakur blended with the wisdom of Dr. King and Mary McLeod Bethune. So when they were younger, we would have mock protest meetings in the basement and we would do Sit-In movements in the backyard.” –kww (10/17/2015)
My Ounce of Truth Benefits
Kevin Amissah and Karsonya Wise Whitehead
It is tiring being me, as I have been black all day.
When I react, I am an animal.
When I am silent, I am violated.
When I fight back, I am a thug.
My ounce of truth benefits
And ripples and Gives voice to my pain.
When I am quiet, I am feared.
When I am successful, I am the exception.
When I fail, I am the rule.
When I try, I am mocked.
It is tiring being me, as I have been black all day.
I have learned how to stand up straight,
While holding the stereotypes of the world on my shoulders.
My ounce of truth does benefit
And ripple and Gives voice to my pain.
When I arrive, I am told I don’t belong.
When I don’t go, I am told that I make bad choices.
When I move or shrug or walk or speak or dance, I am your worst fear being bought to life.
I am the boogey man for the entire world.
Responsible for everything,
Yet incapable and unable to change anything.
My ounce of truth benefits
And though it doesn’t fit your story
It defines my life.
It is tiring being me,
As I have been black And male And living in a white world all of my life.
In 2012, during the aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the #BlackLivesMatter movement was created and a new wave of organizers replete with strategies of resistance, power, and activism slowly began to push the civil rights movement in a different direction. It has now been three years and the movement has gained traction as it continues to work to dismantle and address issues as varied as white supremacy, state sanctioned poverty and powerlessness, nation supported terrorism against unarmed black citizens, mass incarceration, and the classroom-to-prison pipeline. Additionally, uprisings have taken place across the country from Ferguson to Baltimore. At the same time, there has been a conscious effort to include the voices and stories of women of color and to actively work to #SayHerName. It is in this spirit of solidarity, of a shared commitment to justice, and of calling and chanting the names of our sisters that Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism journal invites you to join us in our exploration of the ways in which we teach, catalogue, remember, and research our herstory through the lens of #BlackActivism101.
This special pedagogical issue is particularly committed to understanding and highlighting the struggles of women of color; the work to dismantle and disarm the system of white supremacy; the oppression of trans- and queer people; and, to focusing on the transdisciplinary work that scholars and researchers, activists and artists, teachers and journalists do everyday working both holistically (in that their work crosses many disciplines giving us a fuller picture of what they learn from the information that they have) and organically (in that as they further investigate the complexity of our/their story continues to develop).
Organized around five main Subject Areas, topics of interest include (but are not limited to):
Section I. What Rosa Taught Me (education as a form of activism)
Section II: What Ida Taught Me (writing as a form of activism)
Section III: What Assata Taught Me (direct resistance as a form of activism)
Section IV: What Angela Taught Me (transnationalism as a form of activism)
Section V: What bell Taught Me (activism—starting at the place where you stand)
Exploring the herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement
The New Jane Crow: the mass incarceration of black and brown women
The body as landscape for protest (from taking off our shirts to climbing flagpoles)
Music as a form of activism
From the classroom to the streets: the increased dropout rates for black and brown girls
From Ferguson to Baltimore: the power of shared pain
The Revolution will be tweeted and more: the power of social media activism
From the Civil Rights Movement to #BlackLivesMatter
Policing the Police: the community responds
From Fannie to now: working for peace, fighting for justice, transforming the system
The submission deadline is January 2, 2016 with an expected publication of Summer 2016! Complete packages would consist of a 8-12 page essay grounding the topic and explaining it; a 7-10 page lesson plan with list of print and electronic resources; a one-page bibliography; and, a one-paragraph biography. The editors are very interested in contributors who find ways to work collaboratively using a transdisciplinary approach (which means, finding ways to both connect disciplines and transcend them).
For submission details, see the journal’s http://www.smith.edu/meridians/submit.htm .
Electronic submissions (and questions) should be sent to:
Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Ph.D.
Guest Editor, meridians
Loyola University Maryland
4501 North Charles Street
Department of Communication
Baltimore, MD 21210
I am just going to go out on a limb today and just say it (out loud): I cannot believe that in a society where black folks are being hunted down and killed every single day, folks are more compassionate and concerned and upset about the hunting, stalking, and killing of #CeciltheLion. Do understand that I am not in support of what happened, I just cannot (for the life of me) join the public outrage alongside folks who will not cry, will not weep, and can not support or understand what is happening to black folks around this country. I feel like we are under siege and in the middle of a War that we did not start and we cannot win. So, since the world is focusing so much on Cecil, then I do have some questions/comments to add:
What could Cecil have done to avoid being shot?
Perhaps Cecil shouldn’t have looked so threatening and angry all of the time.
Maybe if Cecil had cut his mane, he would not have looked so scary.
Maybe if Cecil didn’t have a lifetime of violent behavior, he would still be alive.
Where were Cecil’s parents? They should have known better.
Maybe the Minnesota dentist was afraid for his life and flew all the way to Zimbabwe to take care of this threat.
Maybe the dentist was just Standing His Ground and his behavior can be excused and understood.
Perhaps the dentist thought he was grabbing his Taser and grabbed the rifle instead – mistakes do happen in the heat of the moment.
Lions kill other lions all of the time and nobody has a problem with that.
I stand with the dentist – and have started a Go Fund Me account for him.
Maybe the arrows and the bullets gave him superhuman strength because Cecil kept coming after the dentist even after he was shot.
Maybe if Cecil had a job, he would not have even been outside.
Are we even sure that the dentist is responsible, maybe Cecil did this to himself?
#CecilsLifeMatters #TheDentistsLifeMatters #AllAnimalLivesMatter –so stop making it all about one lion.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yep, so now you see what we deal with everyday in the fight to convince the world that #BlackLivesMatter
It is currently in motion – join us with your selections on Twitter!
#SayHerNameSyllabus is a list of resources about black women whose names are generally unknown and whose contributions are not discussed but whose lives made a difference. #SayHerNameSyllabus is designed so that young & old and black, brown, and white folk will know as much about the contributions and lives of Black Women as they do about Black Men
Join me @kayewhitehead to make a suggestion!