I was going to write a love letter to an anarchist. Not just any anarchist, but to the next generation of anarchist I had observed–sometimes tangentially, but more recently, connected with in what appeared to be a much deeper way while working on the multiple ways to heal and liberate my community. I was going to write one of those love letters you write when you are unsure of the status of the relationship you have somehow found yourself in and that has somehow become different from what you expected (then again, you are not quite sure what you expected–so its complex, right?). You are unsure and yet compelled, you are anxious and yet hopeful because they keep showing up in really powerful ways that gives you the impression you are on the same page–mostly. Then little things, odd things start to happen that make you scratch your head and then the odd things become really concerning things that leave a semi-permanent furrow in your brow. You start to feel out of sync then out of sorts and you get to the point where you feel it is time to relay to the object of your affections a message framed by those dreaded four words–“WE NEED TO TALK”. So, you call that person or text that person and drop those four words like a F-bomb with a request to meet, but then you begin to worry that it could all go wrong, really bad, really quickly and you don’t know what to do because you are not sure what the outcome of “the conversation” will be. You don’t know what to do, so you decide to take it back to the old school and write a letter. You write a letter to express the expectations you didn’t even know you had and to share what you think might be happening. You want to get it out in a letter first in hopes that the letter will be a bridge to deepening your relationship. That it will make it possible to know each other better–trust each other–respect each other. I was going to write that letter that started out with a plaintive, “baby, can we talk cause I wanna understand you betta and you are starting to freak me out” and then I saw two things that stopped me dead in my tracks. I felt like I was in an echo chamber….
I saw that Jesus Huerta’s mother did not have the money to bury her child. The child she called the police to bring home because she was worried when he didn’t come home only to have the authorities tell her that her son, her baby died in police custody in the parking lot of the police department. This mother has no money to bury her baby. What? After 3 prayer vigils/marches and several press conferences, no money to bury her child?? Then I read that Avonte Oquendo’s mother and father had received the gut-wrenching confirmation that their child’s remains has been discovered. Avonte, who was autistic and could not speak, had gone missing on October 4th after he wandered out of school. They found “parts” of his body….parts? I put down my pen and thought about my babies—again and I prayed—again. I decided to delay my other letter to write a love letter to my sister mothers whose children’s lives have been snatched up by the system. This is a love letter in memory of two heart beats. This is a love letter for justice….
Do you remember the first time you heard it? It sounded like an underwater extraterrestrial to me—fluttering it wings and pinging off sonar to let me know it was there. My little bean, my baby. I heard his heart fluttering under my own heartbeat that was quickening with the thought that there was a baby in there, in me. When I was pregnant the first time with Che, I did not know what the hell I was doing. You, too! LOL! Man, at 24 I felt so grown, but I was still learning my body as a young woman and now I was carrying another human being inside me. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! This, was going to be trip! How would I manage? What was my body going to look like? Could I really do this? When I was pregnant with Taj at 41, I was so much more in tuned with what was happening to me and inside me and I was still amazed by what my body, our bodies can do, right? That feeling, the awe of realizing that you were two heart beats—two souls residing in one body. Pretty damn amazing…
I don’t know about you, but the first time I gave birth, I was scared to death. I was absolutely convinced that everyone in the delivery was incompetent or crazy (well that may be a little harsh, but I was traumatized by the whole experience so I get to be hyperbolic about my reflections of it). I thought I would never be able to push this big baby boy out of my body. That I would actually die from sheer exhaustion and never get to meet this amazing little person, but I did push Che out and I fell in love so completely and totally that I didn’t think I could fall that hard again…but I did 16 years later.
I have given birth to two babies and lost one to a miscarriage which rocked my world, but I have never buried a child. I have never had to place my hand on either of my baby’s chest and only feel stillness where their heartbeats used to be. I have friends who lost their baby girl to illness and I marvel at their journey and how they chose to include our community in their healing. They were able to decide how they wanted to honor the memory of their child and appeared to be deliberate about what parts of their struggle to be whole they wanted to invite us in to view and to support. But you, sweetie, have not had that choice and I wonder how it is for you.
I have been thinking about you and the day you couldn’t find him/her and you knew something was wrong. Was it that dream the night before or a stillness in the place beneath your heart where you baby once resided? You knew, didn’t you? But that doesn’t really matter does it, because when your worst fear is realized—your baby is gone.
He, they, IT killed him/her! I.am.horrified. I am horrified for you because I know what carrying a child in your body feels like. I know what it feels like for your milk to come down and for greedy little pudgy fingers to drop free of your breast into a deep sweet slumber. I am also so clear, in a most profound way that keeps me on my knees in front of my ancestors praying to God to keep my babies safe, that I don’t know what this is like—I don’t even have a clue. But my mother’s heart tells me that it is not hard, but that it is the worst horror imaginable.
Horrifying to get the confirmation of your worst fears.
Horrifying to realize that the people your thought would protect your child and bring him home to you, will not provide you with the answers as to how he ended up with the back of his head blown out.
Horrifying to learn that your child, your sweet baby was shot in the chest/head/arms/stomach/check/legs. That the baby who looks like your mother and his father or looks like your little sister, was rolled up in a gym mat and is missing his internal organs.
Horrifying because of what happened to your baby, you will have to have a closed casket—can you afford the casket? Can you afford the funeral plot?
Horrifying because our babies are not safe here—they have never been safe here. Damn sis, tell me what you need me/us to do.
In the midst of folks circling the body of your child, spinning tales, rallying, protesting, educating, marching and strategizing—tell me what you want me/us to do. How do you want to grieve? I want you to know that you do get to grieve. You get to grieve that loss of your baby. You get to scream, laugh, cry–be silent, curse. You get to grieve. How do you want to heal? Can we pray with you, sing with you? Can you tell us about your baby–their first words, their favorite food, your favorite memory? What does justice look like for you and your family? What do you need sis? You are the expert on your child. How do you want to tell your child’s story? What do you need right now in this very moment? And even if your lips can’t speak for screaming and crying, we are here. Your sisters and we will hold this space for you–with you and we will follow your lead. We will remind you that what happened to your baby is real and that because he/she was your baby, you get to decide whatever it is you need to decide and when you do—we got you. Lean back sister, we got you. I am sorry this happened to your baby and we will work with you and for you to make sure it never happens again. I love you and I (we) are here.
With all my love, your Sister Mother
I will get back to that other letter, later….