Over the Detroit skyline soars the light of a boy. The ‘not guilty’ verdict is a reminder that there are places that still cannot stomach his shadow.
Freedom is earned: paid for with life, blood, rage and grief.
Our children memorize the dates of American wars. Educators repeat those dates until July 4th tastes metallic and rusty, sun-baked into our tongues. We fill their mouths with blood and tell them it is barbecue sauce.
It’s a necessary step to prepare them for the message – the one we all know:
You are not to walk here if you are going to be yourself.
You must look like us and speak like us.
In the places where your body refuses to shape-shift, you are to make yourself small, invisible.
Don’t hoodies do that? Make us feel cloaked? Protected?
The irony: once we have disappeared behind them, the fear escalates. There’s chaos in the dark.
Night throws catastrophes at you, so devastating every neuron must fire until you are alight.
In the dark, a simple breath is a revolutionary act. The sound becomes precious. In that appreciation of your breath, you have transcended. You are free.
Some will never reconcile the complexity of stealing themselves back.
The dark is ruthless. You must face that you have been compliant with your own captivity. There is nothing more transformative or shattering.
For Zimmerman, it was easier to send his gaze outward to chase “thieves”.
Trayvon Martin has transcended. He earned that freedom. Most of us are too emotionally beat down to attempt a stroll with Skittles and a hoodie through a space that refuses to welcome us.
They didn’t want him walking his innocent brand of freedom through that subdivision, and now he is everywhere.
In a single moment, he appears in every American cul-de-sac.
His name is inescapable.
Tell me that’s not power. Trayvon is a North Star for anyone who refuses to apologize for their identity.
In Detroit, we are literally in the dark. The streetlights are off because our neighborhoods are too desolate to bother with light.
Becoming numb is the only protection for hearing Aiyana Jones’ name.
We are bankrupt. Televisions flicker Kwame’s mug shot, the school board takeover, too many hands reaching to scrape our empty pot.
But, these scandals are stars, too.
Our children are waiting for the signal. For once, they are listening.
We are supposed to tell them about the great hero, Hercules, who also earned his constellation.
He came across a town where the king had allowed years of cattle dung to heap in the fields. The soil was poisoned. Nothing could grow.
When Hercules offered to clear the land, the king laughed! He gave Hercules a single day. The penalty for failing: death.
Despondent, Hercules sat by a river.
A plan came to him. He’d use his strength to change the course of the river!
As water raged through the field, clearing the muck, he’d accomplished the impossible in a single day.
If you are tired of asking young people to wait for people to do right by them, then now is the time. Our grief bands us together. We are grappling with the ideas of healing and justice.
And, for once, that conversation is centered around children of color.
All eyes are directed toward Detroit. CNN reminds us of our importance each time they loop our story.
Detroit is the Promised Land, one of the last stops in the Underground Railroad. Freedom must exist here or our sisters and brothers in Florida will have nowhere to escape.
We have only a moment to remind our children: they are capable of changing the course of the river.
The stars are guiding them to steal themselves back.
In the dark, we can’t afford to teach them to coward out.