My husband and I took a road trip to my oldest sister-in-law's house in Minnesota with our youngest son and his lady the last week of August.
Thinking about how badly I'd been needing to get away from it all, I shelved my traveling-during-COVID paranoia and agreed to the drive up for a surprise, early birthday party for my nephew on Saturday, 8/22. Instead of getting away from it all -- I drove right into it.
Arriving on Friday evening, we unwound at a laid back, socially distanced, driveway-hang-out that night at my oldest niece's house with her little family of three, her younger sister, their mom and my other sister-in-law who'd flown in from New York for the party. Unlike the 100-degree temperatures we'd been suffering in Texas, the weather was GREAT as we sat under the stars talking, laughing, drinking and catching up (not via Zoom for a change). Because we were a part of the surprise, my nephew wasn't invited but, we'd been texting back-and-forth all evening about what he'd been doing in the community since George Floyd's murder (unbeknownst to him, I WAS in Minnesota).
Then, oddly, I got this text from him at 7:25 pm (which I read to everybody else). He said, "Listening to Ranky Tanky and thinking of you. Love you guys and miss you all so much. Wish I had my family here with me. Fuck Covid!" Then he uploaded Ranky Tanky's, "That's Alright" (Long story for later about our bond over Ranky Tanky! Suffice it to say, he respects my Gullah heritage.). We thought our surprise was blown! I texted him back saying, "I feel exactly the same, Nephew. Promise we'll make that happen one day soon!"
On Saturday, per his wife's invitatiion, we had a mask-wearing, tables 6 feet apart, outside in the yard shindig that was fuck*n wonderful!!! Minnesota being a swing state, we had some serious political and racial conversations under the tent. I so appreciated that!
On Sunday, we spent a beautiful day at my youngest niece's house on a pontoon boat on the lake all day and finally, I felt all the tension I'd brought with me just drain away.
On Monday though, we went to the George Floyd Memorial -- and it felt like someone was squeezing my heart as we walked through the closed-off part of the neighborhood from the Cup Foods. This is what I saw first:
When we reached the end of the trail of names and I looked back, the stark visualization of the nationwide numbers of Black deaths felt like somebody had kicked me in the gut. My son put his arms around me and said, "Mom, it happened again." He told me about the Jacob Blake video in Kenosha, not far across the state line from where we were. I'd slept so hard and peacefully the night before, I hadn't heard yet because I'd neither watched TV, nor been online. He wanted to show it to me but -- I. JUST. COULDN'T.
Instead, I walked down to here, the "Say Their Names" Cemetery:
Standing in that makeshift cemetery with all those "headstones" listing the names again (but this time, along with their dates of birth and death, with their actual ages over the dash) -- I thought about Jacob Blake, his children in the car watching him get shot, and how George Floyd's very public death had neither stopped nor slowed the reign of terror in our communities by these sometimes-scared, oftentimes intentional, always-jumpy jackbooted thugs. I just started to shake my head and cry.
I knew they'd quickly be "dirtying" him up, saying the cop was "in fear for his life," putting the cops involved on pretty much a paid vacation "pending investigation," despite the video. I also knew they'd blame him for his own murder. And they've done it all, as usual.
My nieces, along with their young children (one, a nine year-old girl and the other, an eight year-old boy), followed close behind me. I heard the nine year-old ask her mom incredulously, "Did all these people get killed by the police??" Her mom said yes. "And they ALL had Black skin??" she asked. Again, her mom said yes. As the kids went from headstone to headstone they stopped at the one for Aiyana Jones. The nine year-old said to her eight year old cousin, "Sal, she was only seven years old!" My knees buckled and I bent over. Sal's mom came up from behind me, tears streaming down her face and asked, "Are you alright Aunt Debi?" All I could do was shake my head no as we cried together.
Adding insult to injury on Tuesday night, here comes 17 year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, open-carrying against Wisconsin law when the protests broke out -- killing two people an injuring one. I was enraged as I saw cops pretty much give him the Dylan Roof treatment as he walked toward them with his long gun slung over his shoulder and his hands up (I was living in Charleston when Roof murdered the Emanuel 9 on my oldest son's birthday in 2015). Only thing missing was an offer to get him a damned burger.
So much for trying to get away from it all.
We cannot allow this to continue, Family. We've got to keep raising these issues by whatever means necessary and available. Jacob Blake's sister said it way better and more succinctly than I ever could, here: