I avoided the Zimmerman conversation because it forces me to realize that the reality of death is that you no longer have a voice. There is only the memory of what you once were, and there is only your family left to understand the loss that exists. I’ve been afraid of death almost my entire life. I mean the only time I can not remember being afraid for my life was when I was under the age of 14. As soon as I hit my teens and began living and walking through rival neighborhoods, I feared for my life.
Constantly being reminded that a boy who didn’t even make it to the age where he could vote, or join the military, just didn’t make me want to follow the case. Now that the verdict is in, the first thought in my mind is two Courtney’s in my life were murdered (Courtney Hardeman my shipmate in the US Navy was shot by gangbangers in Oceanside California, and Courtney Graham who played basketball for me was murdered by gangbangers in San Diego) and neither of their murderers were found at all. I think about people that I coached and knew who are not here today and it pains me to see this happen and it pains me to know that the person on trial was not the person who pulled the trigger, but the person who no longer has a voice. It’s sad, but not surprising in the least.
This past week I got into a dialogue about music and people kept saying that it’s just entertainment.I honestly hope now that all of those people who made the statement that it’s just entertainment realize now that it’s not. When you think about the struggle of African Americans in America, our entertainment always supported or ignited the movements. The people who had influence in America in the Black community fought to change the perception of how White America saw us. I’m not saying that we have to convince White America, I’m saying that our entertainers and leaders, millionaires and singers, painters and poets those with the biggest platforms always held us to higher standards. They did not promote images detrimental to our growth and direction.
The perception of who we are (blacks) is a series of stereotypes and images that remove any chance for us to have a shot at being seen as anything except attackers, rapists, drug dealers, hoes, bitches or thugs.
In the past we were demonized in this way, because as slaves we did not have a voice and we could only be perceived as what the majority said we were. During Jim Crow we also did not have a voice, but the people who fought for us stood tall and attempted to change the perception of what we were by becoming intellectuals. Consider the artists and thinkers who carried influence Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, and others who when they were seen and heard their intellect and knowledge could not be argued or dismissed. As we moved into the Civil Rights era, the music and art directly shaped the movements. James Brown wrote “Say It Loud”, Sam Cooke sang “A Change Is Gonna Come”. The Temptations made songs about “My Girl” that celebrated love. The Black Arts movement inspired the Black Panther Party. In other words throughout our history the images shown on television of men and women marching, and the music and art of Black America was in complete contrast to the idea that Blacks were animals.
When the time came for legislation to pass, if you don’t think it was helped along and influenced by the strength, intelligence and elegance of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and James Brown as much as Dr. King’s appearance you’d be crazy to think that. Our art has always been our soul. Without the Harlem Renaissance, where would Black America be? Without Jazz where would Black America be? Without Blues and Soul Music where would Black America be?
Why am I talking about art when a man just walked away after murdering a boy? Because I’m not mad at the justice system. I’m not mad at the jury, or the judge or the defense lawyers… I’m not upset at them. I’m upset because Trayvon wasn’t killed by Zimmerman. Trayvon was killed by the perception created by people who don’t care about their appearance, the way they speak, the way they carry themselves, the way they talk about their women, the way they choose to entertain. It’s not Zimmerman who killed my friends and basketball players. Those were people who look like me. When I was scared for my life on several occasions, it wasn’t Zimmerman or White people who scared me.
I know it’s easy to say I’m attacking the wrong thing. I’m not. If I’ve said it once, I will continue to say it: Everytime a black boy drops out of school he kills us. Everytime a black man calls a black woman or any woman a bitch, he kills us. Everytime we celebrate ex drug dealers who rap and became billionaires, we kill us. Everytime we sing all the words to songs about drugs, but can’t sing the words to the Black National Anthem, we kill us. everytime you walk around looking like an ex convict, you kill us. Everytime you make a movie that makes it look like all Black women are angry, you kill us. Everytime we celebrate athletes instead of The Three Doctors, we kill us. Everytime you contribute to the perception that we are hoes, bitches, thugs, gangstas, dealers, molly popping, weed smoking, twerking, illiterate niggas, you kill us.
You see, for all of the posturing and words about being frustrated and angry about Zimmerman getting off, tomorrow, you will wake up, call a Black man nigga, sing songs about being Bad Bitches, and be proud of being tough and disrespecting your elders. Because we only get pissed when it’s fashionable and in style. That’s what niggas do.
Maybe it’s time we start acting like Negros, African Americans, Brothers and sisters, Blacks, maybe we begin to respect ourselves and Trayvon can actually rest in peace.