America has failed you, yet again. This nation gorges on our flesh, and yet it is never satiated. Your mother’s wails could not wake democracy from its deep slumber. And we cannot protect you, not from a brutal and lonely death, not from vilification, not from the exoneration of your murderers. We are powerless, and we mourn. It must seem the case that our people are insane. We march and march and keep marching, getting the same results but forever expecting America to be different.
So we must change. Law and order—a whip and a gun— can be our only expectation and unreasonable the force that will be used on our flesh. You were the burnt offering for America’s second sin. What are we to believe of a nation that claims its right to exist on stolen land?
In your name, dear one, we shall take to the streets and register our lamentations before idols that have eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear. Our cry is not for them but for our own ears lest we become dumb. Neither the maddening fact that we are never safe nor the insufferable truth of degradation can be your eulogy.
Your name sounds like Trayvon. It alone warranted democracy to let loose its vanity on your precious self. The mere sight of you caused men to bear arms against a baby. Our cry will march—some may burn— others will pray. A few will do all of above. America will continue along her merry way not batting an eyelid or shedding a tear.
I am sure you were taught to always tell the truth. And yet your homeland was founded by liars; the whole lot of them. The scared text of the democracy—the Constitution—is a bible of lies. For none of these scriptures hold true for you, nor your mother, her mother, or her mother before her. Those who gunned you down are sworn to protect and serve on the basis of a two-fold lie—that we are not human and that democracy is real. America is as far from the truth as you are from your mother’s touch. Yet we believe.
The United States continues to be a war zone for us. If you had lived, you’d have heard the names Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Jamar Clark. Your young mind would have wrestled with their lives lost, perhaps wondered if you were next. You fell before them and we carry you all because we believe—not in the country or its constitution – but in you.
All we have left is our undying love for our future. I bet you heard old folks talk about the good old days. How they wished your generation could be more like theirs. Nostalgia is a form of mourning, because the present is unbearable, and the future is unforeseeable. You are all we can see. Rest in peace knowing that we will resist.
Our resistance, like our expectations, must change. It is clear the mainstream is a cesspool and the ever-so-cherished Dream is an [un]reality show. At times, our resistance is tainted by the intoxicating fantasy of America. Fallacious sentiments abound: “If they knew more” or “If we did better”… causing the speaker and hearer alike to believe the lie. Cameras cannot save us. The world saw you murdered, and still they deny it. We contort our righteous rage to fit into a cell reserved for prisoners of hope. Thus we must become something else—ourselves. Full and free—swinging on swings—living as though our lives depend upon. Living into us until there is no lie. For sure this has been our fore-parent’s aspiration since being forced to this godforsaken land.
Lives – America’s commodity – are bought and stolen every other day but we must live. This is our hope. To keep doing the very thing that was denied to you. There is nothing ironic about that choice. If we are alive then we might have a chance at joy. To be black and live in America is to resist, and to live a life of resistance demands a sense of joy.
We are crying now and filled with rage because we are what they say we are not – human. Though capricious death is our ever-present companion, we breathe in spite of it. In the midst of a death dealing civilization, the life of a black child taken too soon – as most are – takes our breath every time but for a moment. Demands for forgiveness are followed by the necessity to “keep on keeping on” and a mighty people keeps trying not to die. We live with the expectation that they will continue to kill us. And for that I am sorry. But we will continue to resist. We will not cease to resist.
Yours in love and lament,
Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
A filmmaker, writer and staunch advocate for the gay and lesbian community, Rev. Sekou relocated from Boston to St. Louis following the death of Mike Brown. The organizer and EBONY Power 100 (2015) honoree is the Bayard Rustin Fellow with the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Scholar-in-Residence, Martin Luther King, Papers at Stanford University.