I had a dream last night that I locked Taj up in an old house in an old neighborhood that was not my own. I had locked him away for safe keeping and there were several keys that needed to be used to unlock the door and only I knew where they were and how to use them. He didn’t want to be locked away and looked at me with fear in his eyes, but in my dream I had gone a bit insane and I told him it was to keep him safe and to please trust Mommy—he did and I turned key after key in an irrationally rhythm to protect him, to keep him alive.
no yellow tape here
prone bodies, wailing mothers
crime scenes in war zones
Peter Hardie, Black August haiku 2014
I have been trying to go on a media diet because I was noticing the build up of nervousness– again, in my body. I pulled back from social media to quiet the ringing in my ears, but this echoing of mothers wailing for their babies is so loud that I can’t ignore it because it sounds like my own voice crying out. This weekend my eldest son will come home before he begins his senior year in college and all I can think about is how I want to curl up in my bed with both my boys at my side and listen to them breath–listen to their heartbeats. I want that so badly, it makes me cry.
I initially wrote a blog post, a love letter to Jesus Huerta’s mother earlier this spring. I wrote that letter because there was no justice for her child who died in the back seat of a police cruiser here in Durham, NC with his hands handcuffed behind his back and with a bullet in his head. There still has not been ANY justice for her baby. I wrote that letter because she was struggling to raise the funds to bury her child. I am sharing this letter again because as we continue to move through Black August honoring freedom fighters and political prisoners (Free Them All), we are bearing witness, AGAIN to the horrifying ground hog day effect losing another brother, father, son, husband, uncle and friend to the hands of the oppression that runs rampant in our communities like a rabid dog. This post is for Michael Brown’s (Ibaiye) mother.
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–two sons 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 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! 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 who are supposed to protect your child, killed your child and will not provide you with the answers as to how he ended up shot 10 times! Horrifying to learn that your child, your sweet baby was shot in the chest/head/arms/stomach/legs. That the baby who looks like your mother and his father or looks like your little sister, lay in the street for hours as his body bloated from the summer heat in a pool of his own blood—your blood. 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. There are those who say, “but what about the black on black crime?” What about when our children kill each other? What about that? THAT—-that which is a manifestation of self-hatred, loathing and internalized oppression is so real and is also a monster that hunts our children and pits them against one another, BUT THAT IS NOT YOU CHILD’S STORY! The monster that killed your child has been killing us since our arrival here and I want to know what does justice look like for you and your family? What can we all do so this doesn’t keep happening—damn this shit is so hard!
Sis, how do you want to heal from this? 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
Omisade ( Che and Taj’s Mother, Iya, Mommy, Ye Ye )