These are the nine that were killed at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, on June 17th, 2015.
It’s been hard to figure out the words to describe the events here in the US over the past few weeks. Even after the birth of Black Lives Matter initiative earlier this year, cops are assaulting young black girls and pulling guns on the boys that want to help her at pool parties; an individual is putting on blackface to impersonate and co-opt black womanhood; and, in a state where the Confederate flag still waves high, a white man killed 6 black women and 3 black men in a church because blacks were supposedly “raping our women and taking over the country.”
Gender-based violence manifests in so many ways as dictated by culture. And for the US, racism is its culture.
On a personal note, I wanted to share a few memories:
– In the 5th grade, I was invited to a pool party of an elementary school friend. Being one of the three other black children, I was aware of how other pool-goers saw me. When my dad picked me up, he mentioned that he was not allowed to go to that pool as a child, as it was a white-only pool then.
– I got rid of my hair relaxer a few years ago, less because of wanting a naturally curly hair style, but more because I didn’t want to pay money for hair treatment that didn’t suit my wallet or my image. At a dance club, a young black girl with relaxed hair emerges through the crowd to hold my hands and tell me that I was brave — to look as I naturally do. It saddened me that embracing one’s own black womanhood can bring fear and insecurity. It upsets me even more so now that the process is treated so flippantly by others.
– On family road trips, we frequently would pass through South Carolina. Every time we stopped at a gas station, Confederate flags flew on the backs of trucks filling up with gas and in the store windows. In July 1999, the NAACP called for a boycott of the state because of its insistence in flying the flag over the state capitol. It was not a problem for us to take pit stops before and after entering the states, so we never needed to step foot in South Carolina. But still, that flag flew on the Georgia and North Carolina sides of the border, alike.
– My grandmother belonged to an AME church that was centered in downtown Decatur, GA, and was relocated to my neighborhood as Decatur gentrified. The church, like all churches, formed a beautiful community. It’s men’s club, the women’s circle, the choir, and other church ministries- all of which formed a safe space for members and newcomers alike. I remember going there on an Easter and seeing my grandmother rock side-to-side to the music, smiling.
No memory like that can be violated.