Thursday, February 28, 2013

0 Rage is Forever in my Memory: Trayvon Martin, One Year Later (2/26/13)

I wrote this speech for Tufts’ Pan African Alliance’s (PAA) “Remembering Trayvon Event” which took place outside on a cold solemn Tuesday night (2/26). It took me so long to find the words to write this speech, to say everything just right but honestly, it’s heavy. His death is heavy but in that weight there is always a need to think critically, remember critically, and love critically.

Please Note: The term “Black bodies” is referring to people that are raced as black, with black skin. However in my reference to black bodies specifically in this speech, “black bodies”  cross an axis for various bodies of color. 

Tuesday's Speech, a year after his murder:

Since we in PAA announced that we were holding this event, many have approached us asking why we were having this event outside. While my immediate urge was to respond sarcastically, I had no other words than that Trayvon was murdered outside. Our physical presence outside, under the lights but in the dark, is the least we can do as a community to honor a memory that has too soon faded. Standing outside in the cold is not a display of solidarity, but hopefully the piercing cold will wake something up in you like never before.

There are not enough words I can say today that can do his life, and so many other lives, justice. Not enough to mark and battle the white supremacy, anti-blackness, and violence that are continuously inflicted upon and that have historically violated black bodies. From calling a 9 year-old black female actress a “cunt” and murdering a black teenager because he was blasting hip hop music, our bodies are illegal, unwanted, and torn apart. Our flesh wears violence.

When we are outraged, when we are angry, when we flood the streets in solidarity as a community to say enough is enough, things need to change, and “hell no,” we are too often told to turn to the law. It is the law that allows “stop and frisk,” the inhumane deportation of “undocumented” immigrants, a NY assemblyman to wear blackface at a Purim festival -- all in 2013. The law is what allows “stand your ground,” aka meet suspicion with guns, aka suspicion equals blackness, perceived “hoodness,” and the acceptance of “ghettoized” black bodies, aka stand your ground against blackness.  Black bodies too easily become stacked on ships, “strange fruit,” knocked-down and shot down like dominoes. Under the law, black bodies cannot be understood as “bodies” because they are property: they cannot walk, cannot eat and drink, cannot listen to music, cannot dance, cannot read, cannot breathe because in the hand of the law property is denied the right to live. The law acts with white supremacy in codifying that black bodies are illegal, are violent, and should be stood against and taken down. There is no self-defense for black bodies that is actually read as self-defense. Like our bodies, our anger is read as violent and our fight is read as violent. Meanwhile, the self-defense of white supremacy and anti-blackness is the law. The law does not protect our bodies, it participates in our bodies’ violation. We seek justice, when “justice” and the law will never serve our black bodies; no, it will always do a disservice to them. Black bodies, black bodies, oh hear me when I say black bodies.

But we can stand here and nod our heads, feel bad for ourselves, cry, and say mhmhm, because Trayvon’s murder and anti-blackness may seem distant for many. For some, Tufts is safe and we do not have to worry about what happens outside of this bubble. Well allow me to burst the bubble. Being illegal and illegalized is a more traumatic experience than most will ever realize or suffer through. This is not just a “Florida” matter or an “American” matter, but a global matter, which most certainly means it permeates our home, Tufts. Many have failed to see Trayvon’s relevance to our lives, survivorhood, and existence here on this campus. They fail to see how blackness is illegal even here on this very ground on which we stand today. They fail to see how a black man carrying a wrench being perceived as a black man carrying a gun is traumatic. They fail to see how being stopped at 3am coming from Eaton hall and being questioned even though you have said repeatedly that you are a student is traumatic. They fail to see how being told that black anger, your sadness, and that any emotion you emit is “too much” and an overreaction is traumatic. Our rage in the aftermath of these tragedies, these moments that inflict unspeakable trauma, comes to be seen as irrational.  “Aren’t you overreacting?” “Why are you so sensitive?” “It could have happened to anybody.” But it could not have happened to just anybody. I cannot feel anything but rage tonight because I see how our home, Tufts, like the state of Florida, like our own country, is a symptom of anti-blackness and white supremacy.

Being here, existing in and violated by this system, under this aforementioned symptom, is not something I think about only on the year after Trayvon Martin’s murder. It is something I have to think about everyday. As a young black woman from southeast D.C., the fact that I am still breathing is considered lucky. Will my wearing a hooded sweatshirt be scary to someone to the point where they find it appropriate to shoot me, or worse? Will my black skin cause my death? It wasn’t the just the hoodie that made Trayvon marked for death, he could have been wearing a white t-shirt, a basketball hat, but it was what was under the hoodie that solidified the codification of his body as a threat. Blackness is a code in the white supremacist mind as the ultimate evil, to be eliminated. I have not forgotten about Trayvon, about my friend James, about the multiple dead black bodies in Chicago, Baltimore, Oakland, nor about Rekia and others, because I simply cannot.

I do not know how to stop speaking of something and some-things that are so heavy in my life, that are so embedded in my blackness, and therefore, I shall not. Though the news reporters have stopped watching, though many have moved on, I will never move on. We must always remember. And while that memory can be the most acute pain ever felt, it is in that pain and in that trauma that we remember that our past struggle is foundational in our current reality. Black bodies are not only acted upon, but we act in a rage that is ferocious. Black bodies love inexplicably. Black bodies rage so there can be love.


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