Remember this, beloved:
Today – be gentle with your
Body as it mourns
And dreams of freedom.
Be gentle with your body
If family members attempt to gaslight your memories
By convincing you the racism
“Was all in your head”
“Wasn’t their experience”
“Isn’t appropriate to be stated”
“Shouldn’t speak ill of the dead”
Even though the dead spoke ill of you
And said it was love.
Be gentle with your body
Even as it confuses you.
You who were taught to grieve
In formulaic ritual
There is no template
For this violence, no manual on
How to grieve a loved one that was racist
No binary to confine yourself to
You will wonder if you can hold all this
or if you will just become
Be gentle with your body today
And the next day
And the next
You will learn to hold
What is yours to hold
And to name
What is yours to name
And you will find
Some day that that will be enough.
“Someone close to me is dying. Again.”
This past year, this whisper and scream and deep blue-black windchime wail has bubbled in my throat quick and steady as a knife, as I have watched…
Black body/ Black body / Black body die
Black body /Black body /Black body
Is still here.
Holding on while someone close to me is holding on until they are holding on…to something new.
More and more, I find myself identifying as a scholar of grief, which has largely grown out of my TRA journey and my ancestral lineage of displacement.
How to mourn what has been? How to mourn what could’ve been? How to mourn what is? How to mourn what I didn’t know and wish that I had? How to mourn what will forever be lost? How to mourn what can never be expressed? How to mourn someone that was violent? How to mourn someone that was racist?
Naming that last one sounds preposterous…and true…and heartbreaking.
But, I am learning to name the wounded places and bring the medicine of truth telling.
I can still remember being babysat by my great-aunt, and the long hours I would spend watching Mary Kate and Ashley in the basement.
Clutching a small paper towel, I would sit with my small brown hands shiny with popcorn grease and salt, my eyes firmly lit in the glow of TV while watching two little white girls plan mischievous event after event and dream of my own adventure.
Even now, as I sit perched on top of my couch, my thighs can still remember the feeling of eleven-year-old me, peeling off of the faded pea-green and burnt orange pleather bean bag chairs, all the while innocent to the fact that at least a dozen racist Jemima and “mammy” antiques stared back at me from various shelves and perches.
I can remember these truths and I can remember that she was generous, and funny, and loved to surprise us with Mr. Sticky’s sticky buns.
I can remember that she told me that she loved me.
And, I can remember that she collected racist antiques.
I hold both. And holding both is scary and hard and heartbreaking.
But, I hold them.