A Living Poem: How Bearing Witness to the Murder of Black Boys Has Changed Me5/24/2015
by Thea Monyee' I am a mother of black daughters, mourning with mothers of black sons. Recent...
by Thea Monyee'
I am a mother of black daughters, mourning with mothers of black sons. Recent murders of Black people have affected my everyday interactions.
I was running late for work one morning, trying to squeeze in time for a chai latte from Coffee Bean, when a young black boy walked up next to me counting the money in his hand. I cannot confidently say that if it were another day, during a different time in history, I would have noticed him as much as I did that day. But since the embers of Baltimore are still glowing, Freddie Gray’s neck is still broken, and Tamir Rice is no longer playing in a Cleveland park, I noticed him. He had a small but proud frame, root beer colored skin, and swag for a middle schooler. He caught me looking at him and folded his money.
“What are you going to order?” I asked, nodding my head toward the menu.
“An Icee,” he replied matter-of-factly, as though he purchased Icees from Coffee Bean as often as I purchase chai lattes.
“Oh.” I nodded with feigned approval. Then I issued him a challenge. “Why don’t you let me treat you to your Icee?”
He looked at me, half confused, half surprised. I tried to blink the image of Trayvon Martin out of my head. He is not them, I told myself.
“I have money,” he reminded me, unfolding his thin stack of singles as evidence.
“I know,” I replied. “But sometimes, you have to learn to just let good things happen to you. Put your money away. Save it for after school, or use it to do something good for someone else.”
He stood there thoughtfully, considering my offer and sizing me up. I did not waiver. Finally he nodded in acceptance, revealing a subtle dimple in his cheek. Internally, I sighed with relief. I knew the Icee could not protect him from the literal gun aimed at his head every moment of every day. I knew it wouldn’t bring back our brothers or convict their murderers. I knew he would still be prohibited from carrying Skittles like Trayvon, wallets like Amadou Diallo, or playing in a park with a toy like Tamir. I knew that its delicious flavor would not extinguish systemic racism and truly make him “safer,” but at least it would make him happy. At least I could use this small gesture of activism to fill his belly with love, and joy, and a sense of value today.
“Go ahead and place your order,” I said, triumphantly.
He discovered his Icee was really called a Caramel Frappuccino. He ordered a small, though I believe he wanted a large, but his momma probably taught him not to take advantage. He thanked me, I thanked him, and then I watched him leave the Coffee Bean.
I shook off the moment and accepted it for what it was, just a moment.
After receiving my own order I walked out toward the parking lot and found myself looking up the street for him, instinctively, ensuring he was safe. I saw him, sucking on the straw of his Caramel Frappuccino, walking past a parked police car, a living poem I have not been emotionally stable enough to write. I felt the dam in my womb snap open. I envisioned myself dropping my chai latte and sprinting to him with the speed of a thousand grieving mothers. I watched him in a silent panic until the rush of fear subsided, and he was out of the shadow of the overseers. He never looked back to notice me praying for him, creating a force field around him and his Icee. He was oblivious to the potential danger, engulfed in a world of caramel sweetness, a state of bliss that every child deserves.
Today I transformed fear to love by buying a young black boy an Icee. Tonight I will not take a moment for granted and kiss my brown-skinned daughters twice before bedtime. Tomorrow I will be significantly more mindful of every black child who crosses my path, and I will take the time to show them a little extra love.
Thea Monyee´ is a wife, a mother, and an HBO Def Poet. She is the owner of Canvas Center for Creative Wellness in Los Angeles, and a board member of Manhood Camp for At-Risk males. She is the author of Murmurs of a MadWoman: An Unconventional Memoir. Currently she is the Coordinator for the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center at Cal State Los Angeles.