"...And Another One: The Murder of Black America"

"...And Another One: The Murder of Black America"

“When I was old enough to drive
I would escape to the neighborhood
on the other side of the city.
The one with the oak trees
and fresh concrete.
Donny would point to the houses
that we would buy in 10 years.
We had no fear,
why should we?

It wasn’t a crime to want what they had.

Just don’t drive too fast.
Don’t stay too long.
Use your blinker.
This is America.
Red white and blue
lights in the rearview mirror.
Slow down.
Pull over.
Get out the car.
Do you know who you are?

German Shepherds
walk city streets
with officers on leashes.
Some neighborhoods get patrolled
others get policed.
How can you protect and serve
the same people you fear?
Make sure you take at least
one picture smiling
so your momma can have
something decent
to send to the news
just in case.”

                                           — Nik Richard, The Policed (2016)

As I opened my eyes today, and went through the motions of preparing for the work week ahead; I kept thinking "What should I do? What can I do?". On the morning of July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was murdered by local police officers in cold blood. Personally, I don't believe in deja vu, but the redundancy of this situation has brought me to the point of disgust. It seems as if we as a people continue to relive the same nightmare, with no legal repercussions for the oppressor at hand. Ever since I was a child, my mother would always tell me "Son, be safe and aware of your surroundings. Regardless if it's your fault or not, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can turn your bright future into a headline. And that, would break my heart." In a few weeks, I will have celebrated another year on this earth, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones. So many African-American mothers and fathers have had to bury their sons; they receive no compensation, no proper explanation, and no closure. It is truly sad when a black male has to proceed with caution when he only wants to go the the grocery store to provide for his family. Whether it's 1920 or 2016, it's evident that nothing really has changed.

Growing up in New Orleans, at a young age I became somewhat desensitized to the loss of young life. However, I as got older and was exposed to new experiences, locations and people, I realized that the social climate in which I was raised was not normal. Normalcy is not being shot in the street like an animal before the age of 25; normalcy is living a full, healthy life, and being able to watch your grandchildren grow into model citizens in today's society. I want my generation to understand that our lives do matter. I want us to understand that we are more than a #hashtag; and that we have the ability and potential to grow beyond that of a statistic. The murders of Trayvon MartinFreddie GrayPhilando Castile, along with countless others, are testaments that even in the 21st century, our lives are not equivalent to our racial counterparts, for better or worse.

As the legendary Billie Holiday once told us, "Southern trees bear strange fruit; blood on the leaves and blood at the root.." If you haven't already, I've included watchable footage of the moment in question. It's been a couple of days since this incident, and I've yet to view the video in it's entirety; I just can't bring myself to do so. The racial double standard in America has existed since the day that "we" declared our independence in 1776... it's crazy that the aforementioned situation occurred on the night after our nation's date of birth. Typically, I would dismiss this as coincidence, but this has happened so many times, it's almost to be expected. In getting back to double-standards, my grandparents would always tell me about  the United States in the 1960s; how it was a beautiful time, but how it also was a time of great turmoil for the African-American race. Another landmark in American history during that period was the Vietnam War. I was told that the nation as a whole didn't truly care about the unnecessary loss of life (outside of the families and friends affected..) that was taking place in Vietnam until they received ocular evidence. When the news media began to show what was going on overseas, every decent, sensitive and compassionate citizen of the U.S. demanded the recall of the all the young soldiers; yet the killing, hosing and dog attacks on their African-American counterparts did nothing to their pysche. Sadly, the previous statement remains true even today.

There once was a time when we had leaders; real leaders. Men and women that were not worried about their well-being, but the well-being of future generations. Unlike some of the celebrities of color that we cherish today; whom of which treat fame like a drug and are willing to sell their souls to stay in the spotlight, these heroes of the Civil Rights era were beaten, hosed and even killed for the common rights that most of us take for granted every day. The majority of my peers have only voted once in their lives; some not at all. It's one thing when society tells you: "You don't have to vote", it's another when they tell you: "You can't vote." ...and I truly hope that resonates. Some people feel that we live in a time where leaders like Martin or Malcolm aren't needed; that the social climate has progressed in such a positive way, that a call to have a "civil rights" leader would be too extreme; I agree with that statement, but for an entirely different reason. I believe that we don't need a singular leader, I believe that we need unity. Unity amongst ourselves, unity amongst our respective communities, and unity amongst our race. As the old saying goes: "A house divided cannot stand."

Is this editorial a call to action? Well, whomever reads this can interpret it how they want. What I'm saying is, we have to to something. Too many times have we tried to resolve racial issues with words and not action. Everyone wants to talk, but no one wants to do. "Do", does not necessarily mean violence, because by no means do I promote that... but something different needs to be done. We need to let the powers that be know that we are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. I know that Dr. King is still waiting on the day where we can be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character; trust, I'm still dreaming too, Martin. So, with that being said, always stay focused and aware of every decision; remember, our future depends on it.

Take care,

       - Okla (@coolhandoak)