This week has served as a seminal moment in my life. I have arrived at a moment of clarity about my existence and journey as a Black man in America. Like many, I watched on television the 10 minute assembly that rendered Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. As my wife and I watched, I uttered two thoughts. There is still more work to do. God, now I understand why you have led me in preaching and teaching this way. In that moment, things were becoming clear. However 30 minutes later, I would recognize how significant those words would be for me.
A member of one of my churches called me. She did not sound like her normal self. She told me that she heard about a shooting in area close to her niece. Found out that it was a police involved shooting. Her niece was fine, but a teenage girl was now dead. I began to pray. I found myself once again heavy with grief. Another member text me live videos from people that were in the area. I watched in horror. My grief turned to angst. Why? I knew this young lady was not going to be able to tell her story.
Sunday morning, I completed Part II of my sermon series, God Sees Me. I talked about Simon of Cyrene. I mentioned that his story was made possible because his sons, Alexander and Rufus, talked about it constantly. Those sons made an impact by never allowing the narrative of their father to be misconstrued or taken out of context. The gospel writer made the addition of this story significant by identifying Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus. Mark humanized a person that would have only been addressed as an afterthought or other to the rest of the world.
My’Kyia Bryant is now suffering a great indignity that no human being should. Being repackaged.
She is now gone from this world. She died from four shots from a service revolver. She is being packaged as violent. She is being presented as an attacker. She is being used as a symbol of a trouble child. Yet, all of these narrative ascribed to her do not reflect the complete nature of the environment that led to her demise. So many people have spoken of her light, her smile, her intelligence. So many people continue to present the picture of a young woman attempt to defend herself from others. She wanted someone to intervene for her because others in the area refused to do so. She needed help.
Unlike other situations in the past, this one hit home differently. I am reminded of my time working at a youth residential center. The youth were considered to be “troubled”. I didn’t really care about that. I wanted to make a difference. We were trained in CPR, various levels of restraint, and other necessary concepts pertaining to the job. I was trained and prepared for any situation.
One night while working third shift, a young lady was having issues with someone on the floor. She was so desponded that she broke a mirror with the intention on killing herself. She waved that piece of glass to keep others away from her. I came upstairs and saw my co-worker attempting to keep her calm and trying to get the other kids back to their rooms. That young lady was in crisis. I asked to help because it would give my co-workers the opportunity to clear the halls and the room so they could find any other contraband and completely defuse the situation. My part in this process was the least of anything. They had done the hard part of making connection with the girl. That night, this child was saved. The next day she had the help needed. Going forward, she knew that she had people who cared about her.
The events of this week are a testament to what happens when compounded elements converge on a young life. I feel that it is important to state that we as a society should be to recognize that many things can be true at the same time. Why did this young lady feel the need to call the police? Why were people taking the time to observe the confrontation and intervene? Why did the last resort for peace choose deadly force as the only option?
I contend that the continued separation from the village concept plays a major role in the initial toxic environment. Before you assume I mean just a surface concept of a village raising a child, allow me to take you into deeper water. Growing I had at my disposal more than just my family. My village had attorneys, educators, entrepreneurs, preachers, etc. I could not go anywhere without seeing someone that knew me. I could not settle for mediocrity because my village was strong. It is only now that the village of my youth is beginning to age or die off. How many of our young people can say that?
We have so many people that get mad when you attempt to teach a child accountability, self-worth, and value that it can feel hopeless to instill something more in the next generation. The fact that within our community their is an equity gap for with our own children in how we treat and care for them can be challenging. We find ourselves having to constantly rise about superficial differences in order to attempt to raise one another up. We fight against one another due to constant toxicity. We feel disconnected even if we live ten feet away.
Our separation is magnified by constantly wrestling for crumbs at a table not meant for us. We have lost a sense of self-sufficiency trying to fit into a society and grouping hesitant to embrace us fully. People are willing to love the creativity, potency, and profitability of Black life, but constantly hate the packaging it resides in. Sports leagues make billions of dollars the backs of exceptional talent. The medical field built billion dollar research revenues from the genes of a black woman. The country advance due to slave labor. The media survives on the propagation constant traumatic suffering. Others promote incomplete narratives to preserve toxic lifestyles.
By the time you address all these things, you are too tired to care. You say I have no other option. When the final option comes, it comes with the same instant indifferent energy and eliminates the “problem” without hesitation. By the time we collective come to ourselves, we realize that we were lulled to sleep and cared too late. My’Khia did not have to die, but her being was set up for execution.
I want justice to be served. I want this young girl’s life not to be handled like a throwaway story. So, what do we do?
- Rebuild the Village: How about we start with being human again. I don’t want to wait when we are mourning the death of someone to have to bring your butt out of hiding. I don’t want to commiserate about replayed trauma all the time. Every now and then, we should be talking about so much more. I want us to talk about building businesses, improving the working spirituality of our people, and securing the future of our children. We need to connect with our elders to understand our past. We need to have more time on the stoop, patio, park, etc. We need to teach care and respect for self not respectability politics. We must cultivate a safe haven for all of us. We must be able to workout our collective strategies and possibilities in humility and full respect of our sacredness as created in the image of God. We must dismantle and purge the commitment to slavery to unjust ideas that harm us, the disenfranchised, the least, the last, and the lost (Thank you Rev. Henry O. Leftridge, may you continue to rest in power).
- Dismantle the Toxic: I am tired of being a target first and a human second. I am tired of watching our Black children being a target first and a human second. I am tired of Black women being seen as a target first and a human second. I am tired of voices crying and yelling for freedom being seen as overexaggerating. I’m tired of excuses by people attempting to maintain the status quo in the name of their comfort and convenience. The Bible teaches that you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. Why? Doesn’t the old wineskin have the capacity? Capacity is not the issue. Is the structure faulty? Yes. New wine’s potency will reveal that the old wineskin cannot effectively hold the wine. The reaction is so bad that the skin will burst open at the contact. We have to agree and move forward by understanding that the current structures are not capable of handling greater. We must remove the old and create all things new for greater possibilities.
- Normalize the Desire for Better: We cannot continue to settle for a “crumb” mentality. We cannot continue to believe that we only deserve or strive for crumbs when God said we can have the whole loaf (Life and life more abundantly). We must begin to demand justice so that peace might truly reign. We must normalize respecting our brothers and sisters that achieve, grow, and accomplish greatness. We must not allow any entity to dictate our paths, value, or joy. Being treated as a human being is the bare minimum, but it is not the ultimate goal. Respect my worth everyday, because doing so will enhance your life and environment. Respect the fact that God made a table for me. Don’t try to steal from it, because it has my name on it. Honor the reality that I will not have my name or life placed in your hands to change my narrative. My real story is great without editing.
My’Khia did not have to die. I have reached my breaking point attempting to make sense of what does not. No more babble. No more justification for death. No more. No. More.