June 17 will NEVER be the same again for me…
My first-born son turned 39 today and, given the egregious number of Black men and women who’ll never see another birthday due to the machinations of the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy — I’m glad he was able to.
As I do every year, I woke up this morning and called him to sing “Happy Birthday.” And as has happened every year since June 17, 2015 — I was kicked in the chest by the realization that my annual, joyful-love celebration of his birth, would forever be linked with the painful deaths of the nine people Dylan Roof murdered in my home town at Mother Emanuel. I was there.
Joyful love and immense pain have always coexisted in the lives of Black folk since our unwilling, in-the-boat “immigration” to these alleged, United States of America (Sullivan’s Island is our Ellis Island).
I heard about the murders that June 17 night on the evening news and almost simultaneously, a call to assemble downtown the next day via text, email and social media immediately went out from my friend, the late Black Lives Matter Charleston activist, Muhiyidin D’baha. We all responded. Arriving at the church and met with the yellow, “Police line do not cross” tape designating a crime scene, my heart just broke — so much so, I’ve not been able to write about it until now.
I remember a CNN reporter sticking a microphone in my face, asking me what I thought about the violence that had been visited upon Mother Emanuel. I told him, “White violence has long been visited upon the neighborhood surrounding the church via gentrification — these deaths are just the culmination of all the efforts to bleach the neighborhood, ridding it of all the Black folk whose lives were inextricably linked to it” (needless to say, that quote was never used). Say their damned names today!:
DePayne Middleton Doctor
Daniel L. Simmons, Sr.
After I’d moved back home in 2014 because I was homesick after nearly 30 years of moving around with the Navy, the husband…