TODAY…Friday, January 8, 2015 (Baltimore City)
4:30 p.m. I am sitting in a coffee shop on a cold wet and rainy day reading the City Paper Vol. 40 No. 1 They profiled the 344 people that were killed last year in Baltimore City. They. Said. Their. Names. They made them real to us. They gave us their stories, provided us with the some back ground, the times of their death, and they gave a running tally so we could see how the city went from the first death on Saturday, January 3 12:07 a.m. (Leon Flemming) to the last one on Thursday, December 31 8:15 p.m. (Jameel Woodward). I want to work for a paper that makes a decision to make this number mean something. I sat there and said each name and read each story out loud to my youngest son. We must be the ones that remember them. We must find solutions to stop this leaky valve. We must be the ones to change this reality. We must be the ones that we have been waiting for.
5:30 p.m. I am experiencing a moment of cognitive dissonance as I sit in a fancy shamancy coffee shop –one of only two black people here– reading the names and stories of all of these black men who were killed in this city last year. I look around and wonder if I am the only person who feels like the air is being sucked out of the room, one name at a time, one story at a time, one breath at a time. I now understand why I wake up Angry and Ready to Fight every single day and go to bed every night Praying and Breathing a sigh of relief. I know understand why I really believe that I am suffering from PTPRD (post-traumatic post-racial disorder). According to the City Paper, “If you are a young black man in Baltimore, you are 30 times MORE likely to die on the streets here than if you had grown up elsewhere in the US.” I am raising two black boys with my black husband in Baltimore City and ever day they leave the house and I realize, with a sigh/with a deep rooted moan/with tears in my eyes, that I could be Tamir’s mother, I could be Trayvon’s mother, I could be Jordan’s mother, I could be Walter’s wife, I could be Eric’s wife…I could be. I reach over to my son, sitting next to me holding a book in one hand and his phone in the other, and I touch him –just to remind myself that he is still here, he is safe, and he is still (if only for a moment) close enough for me to jump in front of him if something happens.
5:45 p.m. I could not breathe. I could not see. I could not stop shaking. Page 24 Name #288 – this is the moment when everything stopped for me. I Stopped reading, I stopped drinking my coffee, I stopped reading names in my casual yet concerned voice and I got up and left the coffee shop because I could not stop crying. –Darryl WHITEHEAD, #288, was shot in the head and died at 3:44 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4. My son followed me out of the coffee shop; he grabbed my hand and wanted to know if Darryl could have been related to us. “Yes,” I said, as I slowly dragged my tired, bone-weary spirit to my car – “he could have been one of us.” I sat in the car, laid my head down on the steering wheel and took a long deep breath – Darryl Whitehead could have been my son, he could have been my husband. He is, even though I do not know him, one of us. I want to know his story. I want to meet his family. I want to say his name and remember it like he was my own.
8:45 p.m. My sons are home. They are in the basement, playing with their X-Box, laughing about their day. They are home, waiting for dinner and wondering aloud if they will be able to stay up late and get dessert. They are home and their coats and shoes, and books and gloves are strewn about the house. They are home and they are complaining about whose job is it to take out the dog and make his dinner. They are home and they do not have a care in the world. Not at this moment. My boys are home and Darryl Whitehead is not. I step outside onto my back porch and I say his name over and over again, in the hope that it will be picked up by the wind and his family –somewhere here in Baltimore– will feel and know that I am in mourning, too.