This week symbolizes so much for so many of us. I have been thinking about my own journey over the past year; taking stock of the ways I have changed physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have been sitting with the ways that I showed up to the moment or not. Most notably and specifically, Breonna Taylor and the meaning of silence.
For a better part of a year, I have sat with guilt, shame, and a sense of failure for what I once perceived as not showing up and out for her. My feelings were especially punctuated by the fact that I, an Afro-Latinx womxn, am now the owner of an Intersectional Feminist Bookstore in Brooklyn that centers the stories and injustices of all womxn with particular attention to Black womxn, did not post about her. I always feel an unspoken pressure to have a say; to mark the moment in some public and prolific way. And when I can't meet what the moment calls for, I feel a deep sense of shame. I resent this aspect of being a business owner.
To further complicate things, before I was the owner of Cafe con Libros, I spent my entire life being on my own side and the side of womxn. And once I transitioned into professional life, I dedicated almost 10 years to working with and on behalf of non-profits centered on anti-gender violence. I know the issue well. And still, I was silent.
However, as time passed, I realized that yes, I was silent. I was also and still am grieving. I am scared. I am hurt. I am anxious. I am feeling a profound sense of powerlessness. At times, I am overwhelmed. At others, I am distracted. I asked myself, after almost two decades of activism, why am I now feeling so afraid? The answer is simple, I am a mother.
Weeks before Breonna Taylor's death, I remember coming home from work, watching 45th talk about COVID19. I remember thinking to myself, I can't trust him. I remember the sinking feeling in my gut that because I had listened to 45th's administration, that I may have single-handedly exposed my 72 yr old mom and 2-year-old son to COVID19. I remember feeling something inside of me shift. I have not returned to my old self.
I spent so many nights up and listening to Emiliano breathe. I nursed him hoping to fill his body with antibodies. And when the entire family experienced COVID19 symptoms, I spent every waking hour wondering if I had transmitted the virus to him via breast milk. I searched and searched for information to help me make a decision of whether to wean. I ultimately decided my antibodies were worth the risk.
Another layer. We live about 10 min away from a hospital. Our block is the main conduit to the emergency room. Sirens were the backdrop of our lives for months. I said more prayers for strangers than I ever had. My anxiety was high. My hopes, low. My bandwidth to handle one more thing, disappearing.
Breonna Taylor was shot to death in the middle of all of this. She was shot to death in her own apartment. In her own bed. In her intimate nighttime clothes. She was shot to death at the most vulnerable and unsuspecting time. I literally could not comprehend. I wondered if we are not safe in our own home and we are not even a suspect, where are we safe? Something inside of me died.
For weeks, I listened to the stories surrounding the shooting. I listened to the justification of why the police were there in the first place. I listened to the framing of a story that centered on the ex-boyfriend and not Breonna. I listened with disbelief and profound sadness. I also listened with a sense of recognition.
I could have been Breonna Taylor. So many of my childhood friends could have been Breonna Taylor. We have all loved men with shady histories; it's almost a rite of passage.
For me, many of who are my bloodline and by loving and being loved by them, cultivated my depth of empathy and compassion. Do I deserve to die? Will any of those associations result in someone kicking down my front door and spraying bullets through my apartment with my two-year-old son? Isn't it our right to make mistakes and not feel we'll be shot in our own beds? Are white womxn being killed because they dated "scum"? Where does the madness end?
So many of us Black womxn and Black moms struggle every single day with the reality of the world we are living in. A world that has never valued our bodies outside of how it can advance capitalism. I woke up this morning sad and afraid. My anxiety around protecting my own body and that of my son on 100. I cannot peacefully shower if Emiliano is not under the watchful eye of an adult. I call his name every two minutes and leave puddles as I rush out the bathroom to find him sitting right where I left him two minutes ago. Breonna was in her own apartment, in her own bed. Black babies are being stolen from their own backyards while the world keeps turning.
I was silent. I was grieving. I am grieving a complicated and compounded grief because my existence is layered and intersectional. For all my education and accomplishments, there is not a single bad thing that happens in America where I believe I am exempt or will be treated with dignity when seeking help. Fam, there is nothing normal about living in perpetual fear. Something has to change. So, as we mark this anniversary, I invite you to consider what change looks like for you both internally and within the community. What are we willing to sacrifice to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all?
Today, I chose to write and not be silent. I will also choose to be outside and claim my right to joy. And I will continue my commitment to equity for all through the bookstore, partnerships, blogs, and raising an ally to the movement. If you are not able to act now, it's ok. Tomorrow is another day.
1. Invisible No More
3. Women, Race and Class
4. Free Cyntonia
5. Knock at Midnight
6. Hood Feminism
Take care family. It's been one hell of a year.