Everyone lost to gun violence is someone’s beloved. Beloved is a multi-media campaign exploring gun violence in-depth in four phases: The Problem of gun violence as a symptom of illness (or infection) caused by systemic inequality; The History of gun violence, root causes, and local and national data trends. The Solutions to end gun violence including King County Public Health’s regional approach to gun violence prevention and treatments; and finally, the ideation of a world without gun violence, The Beloved Community. The Beloved project is brought to you in partnership with Seattle Office of Arts & Culture Hope Corps program, King County’s Public Health team, Converge Media, Black Coffee Northwest, Toybox Consulting, Creative Justice, The Facts Newspaper, Forever Safe Spaces, Northwest African American Museum, Presidential Media, and the South Seattle Emerald.
Did you know that in 1973, American singer, songwriter, and musician Donny Hathaway released his album Extension of a Man? The second song on the album is titled “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” The hopeful lyrics and uplifting melody marked the song as a classic, and it was later referenced as an anthem for the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
The day that the modern Civil Rights movement begin was the day when them white men kill Emmett Till. His mama, Mamie, was sitting on the sofa in her little house on the South Side of Chicago when the call come in that would change her life. Her child was missing from her granddaddy’s house.
It was Willie Mae who called, not Mr. Mose. The white men who took Emmett had told Mose not to report a thing he seen or heard. So it was Curtis Jones who call the Leflore County Sheriff. And then Willie Mae call Mamie at 9:30 that morning to tell her what had happen to her only son.
Willie Mae said some white men had come and took him about 2:30 a.m. that Sunday morning. Mamie was still in the bed and was fast asleep, but what Willie Mae was saying sho’ did wake her up quick.
The daffodils dance in the front yard like tornadoes. Red roses climb, wild, to the roof of our house. This Mother’s Day is alive with hope and with morning. ‘Cept for the slash that is running cross my Mama mouth.
She kneading the dough for the biscuits for breakfast. She got the radio on, tune to WOKJ. That’s the radio station where my brother, Quint, is a DJ. They talking ‘bout the Freedom Riders, colored folks and whites riding buses down South from Washington D.C. to New Orleans. All of them is students. My Mama say, “This how these chir’en choose to spend they spring vacation? They ought to be home with they mamas.” Then she whip the dough like it’s the thing made her mad.
My Mama say when she a girl and she go to school, way back when, sometime back in a whole ‘nother century, that only the white children get to ride on the bus. Colored children have to walk. And the white kids pass by and chunk mud rocks at them. She say the school that she go to is bout 10 miles each way. But every time she tell the story, the school get further and further. I done heard this story for so much of my life, I could tell it by heart. I am dusting the floorboards in the living room. And oiling our beautiful old wooden upright piano. These the two things that I have to do every Saturday along with wringing the clothes from out our new wringer washer and hanging them out on the clothesline in the backyard. Mama sitting on the couch sewing my new dress for school. The television is on filled with black and white images of little colored children trying to desegregate schools.
When Satsuki Ina’s mother received her reparations check from the US government in apology for incarcerating over 120,000 Japanese Americans between 1942 and 1945, the check ended up somewhere in a stack of papers piled high on her desk. Instead, a framed apology letter leaning against the wall caught Ina’s eye.
“What does this mean for you?” Ina asked her mother.
“I feel like I finally got my face back,” her mother replied.
Since the death of George Floyd last spring, the term “Defund the Police” has jumped into the public conscientious, but not by some twist in fate or happenstance. The fight for police accountability and reform has been a generations-long battle, which has coalesced into what we see today with the Defund the Police movement.
In over 100 years of policing there has been repeated violence directed at Black and Brown communities at the hands of police, and little meaningful reform to stop or reduce it. White America may be just fine with doing the absolute bare minimum and maintaining the status quo, but marginalized communities may not be so willing to endure another century of violence directed at them.
The uncomfortable truth is that police forces were originally created in our nation for the purpose of upholding white supremacy. They were slave catchers, created for the explicit purpose of capturing runaway slaves.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these sunken eyes and learn to see All your life You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly Into the light of the dark black night.
These lyrics from the classic tribute to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s by the Beatles pop into my head every time I see a photo of Stacey Abrams. My throat gets dry, tears well up, and I get goose bumps. How prescient those words are.