By Twanna Harris
photos Twanna Harris
It’s 3 am, the Thursday morning before Mother’s Day, and I can’t sleep because my heart is broken into little tiny pieces and I’m not even sure it can ever be whole again. In addition to sharing everyone else’s worries of our realities ‘beyond COVID-19’, and the constant reminders of the racial, health and economic disparities of Black and Brown people in America, I also share the anger, fear and sheer disgust for a world that has intentionally chosen to turn its back on its people.
Many of those closest to me know that, even though my oldest son plays for the NFL, my home is filled with athletes – from my husband (a former NFL player himself) down to my 17 year old baby girl. With that said, you must realize how painful and traumatic it is for me to constantly see countless unarmed black men being targeted and murdered in the streets by hate-filled bigots, virally trending on social media week after week! It’s open season all year on black men…and as black women, we’re constantly moving around our spaces trying to make other women (and men) comfortable, despite the pains and fears we hold for our family and others daily? GTFOH! I can only deal with so much ‘on any given day, week or month’. I digress…this easily could’ve been my son.
What we need to discuss is how is it that a young black man, going out for a little fresh air and a jog, is shot down, left to die, videotaped (premeditated) and his death is somehow justified? Why does it take video proof to illustrate guilt? How is it that we are told we are free but our skin color alone dictates what can and can’t be done to us? How can two grown men with guns claim self-defense against an armless black body who is doing nothing wrong, but enjoying his ‘freedom to live’ (pun totally intended). This easily could’ve been my son.
Realizing that this is totally a privilege that Ahmaud’s parent’s don’t have, I have chosen to stay away from this news reporting to best maintain my emotional and mental well-being, so I don’t have all the facts. But I have seen the same video that many of you have, and it was pretty evident that he was blatantly hunted and murdered publicly with no just cause, no emotion, no remorse. I can sit here, cry and pity myself and every other mother of young black males. Rather, I have chosen to sit still, search the depths of my soul, channeling my higher power and my ancestors for the wisdom to prevent future wrongs, on top of all the other BS and ‘isms we have to push through daily. How do we simply have peace each time our black kids exit our doors, each time they mutter the words ‘bye mom’? I’m just one of millions demanding the answer to that question. This easily could’ve been our son.
My work up until now has allowed me to have close proximity to police officers, and what I’ve learned is that there are countless examples of precincts that exist ‘solely to make others feel comfortable’, even as the people they’ve prioritized for protection are the ‘newcomers’ who buy up land that had been occupied for decades by black and brown people.
Ironically, I have been considering several rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods as potential home buying locations but have held back due to my fears that existed years before this event. You see, I have a household of black athletes (three males) that love a ‘good sweat’…so much so that my husband will run, early in the mornings, with a full hoodie in 75+ degree temperatures, just to get a ‘good burn’. Isn’t it interesting that the thought of ‘what neighborhood would be safest for black men who like to run (and just live)’ is my greatest concern for home buying? Not the value of my home’s appreciation, not the school district, but the safety of my family just because there would have been three black men living there? Unfortunately, we don’t have the privilege of seeing a house as a wealth building tool when our top priority is simply maintaining a place to call ‘home’ that serves as a refuge from a world filled with hate, greed and envy.
My fears, like those of so many other mothers of black males, are constant and extreme. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t run in the dark anymore. Can’t get him out of his hoodie though, nor should I. “He should be entitled to run in whatever he wants!”, I used to exclaim, not worrying about what makes everyone else comfortable. That was my initial thought until I would see the faces of other people when they witness ‘black males running anywhere’, other than a field, court or track.
Why is this? Above and beyond just ‘racism’, what has poisoned the world’s psyche against black men who walk the streets daily – our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands but not the LeBrons, Travis Scotts or Jonathan Kirks (DaBaby) of the world? We must address why the world loves ‘Black (not pop) Culture, but hates the people who create these communities of belonging? Again, I digress. Ahmaud could’ve easily been either of those men, or my son!
So as we move forward with coping in this world that was only ready for our existence as products to sell and to profit off of, and for the appropriation of our creative talents, our ability to innovate, our cultural currency, and our physical contributions, please know that we (Black people) don’t need the world blaming us for our food choices, lack of exercise, hypertension and stress levels. How are we responsible for not pulling up our boot straps when the world has clearly stripped us of our basic rights, including the bare essentials to go outside with — not only in the midst of a pandemic but on a daily basis. We need the world to take a really good look in the mirror and truly assess how long it could thrive in the type of reality is has subjected Black communities to…even though COVID has clearly exemplified how unbearable it is for some to even stare at four walls or their own family members for more than a week without demanding its self-righteous ultimatums to return to ‘how things were before’ – with lattes and frappes more readily available for our long dog walks with birds chirping through the park and our neighbors rejoicing to craft beer and cornholes. What a f’ing privilege! No concern in the world for the fact that Ahmaud could’ve been my son. Obviously, my son’s life is at stake and as a mom, I have zero F’s to give!
So to the #MomofMaud, I know I speak for so many when I say that my heart, soul and commitment to creating change is with you and every other mother who has had to say goodbye to their black sons before they had a chance to live. On this Mother’s Day, I call all women, all moms to the table for a movement to reignite the ‘fight for justice’ that began long before we could account, but resurged behind the senseless murder of young men like Emmitt Till decades ago! And do give yourself time and space to regain strength, as this will be an eternal marathon, certainly not a sprint.
Silently, we were on the front lines then and it’s time for us to regain our rightful places in history for our sons now. We’ll be mobilizing to determine what this looks/feels like, so please drop a comment below, if interested, and stay tuned for more information, events and updates. Until then…stay strong, remember his name is #AhmaudArbery, and he was no different than Trayvon, Tamir, or Jordan. Each of whom easily could’ve been MY SON!